First-year head coach Curtis Flakes was unfazed when he inherited a 39-game string of losses at Albuquerque High this year. Flakes, 32, had already survived a near-fatal 2011 motorcycle accident that left him with multiple fractures and serious internal injuries—but that also ended up saving his life. While he was in physical therapy, constant chest pains led doctors to discover a grapefruit-sized tumor overlapping his heart, leading to six months of chemotherapy and a month of radiation before he took the job at Albuquerque. The Bulldogs, who hadn't won a game since opening day in 2010, would lose four more under Flakes before routing Highland High in a 47--8 win on Sept. 26. "They'd experienced a rough three, four years and I had too," says Flakes, now in remission. "So it was an opportunity for myself and for them to put the past behind us."
AARON SWEET (FLAKES)