Over the past three years on any given Friday night during football season, under the lights at Moriarty High School’s stadium, it was common to hear someone call out, “Attaboy, Pete!”

At some point in every Pintos game, Pete Sandoval did something advantageous on one side of the scrimmage line or the other. Whethe

r it was scoring touchdowns, or simply making a much-needed run for positive yardage, or coming up with a big stop on defense, a teammate or coach on the sidelines would invariably yell, “Attaboy, Pete!”

Pedro “Pete” Sandoval and his younger brother Mateo died Tuesday morning in a car accident on their way to school. Both were Moriarty High School student-athletes.

I first got the news through emails from the MESD superintendent and the high school athletic department—and it left me shocked and saddened. I can only imagine the indescribable grief their family, friends, teammates and coaches are all going through.

Admittedly, I never met Mateo. And as the sportswriter for The Independent, I only knew Pete as a student-athlete, a sparkplug for his team, a member of the Pintos family.

I watched Pete play basketball and run track with unflinching competitive spirit, and I took a photo of him with his teammates after they medaled at last year’s 4A track and field state championships.

But it was on the football field where I saw No. 40 display what an unassuming leader he was.

I only had the opportunity to talk with Pete a few times. But I think it’s fair to say that what I got from our brief conversations was an accurate reflection of who Pete Sandoval was as a person.

Pete was always reserved when talking with me, and it was clear that he held the interests of his team above his own.

After tallying an impressive 140 yards rushing and scoring Moriarty’s only touchdown in the Pintos’ Sept. 6 loss to Hope Christian, I asked him to describe his TD. The first words out of his mouth were, “We gotta come together—gotta get it done.”

After some prying to get him to talk about the touchdown, he said modestly, “I got some good blocking and I just ran.”

He wasn’t concerned with getting personal attention in the newspaper. He was far more focused on what he could do to help his team get better.

During the Pintos’ homecoming win over Hot Springs, Pete was used sparingly because of an injury. He spent most of the game on the sidelines, but he used that time as an opportunity to amp up his teammates.

After the game, I interviewed Justin Carmona about his first-quarter touchdown run.

When Carmona finished describing his touchdown, Pete chimed in, “Andres turned in a beautiful block.”

It was important to Pete Sandoval that I included his teammate, Andres Lopez, who helped make Carmona’s TD run possible.

A moment later, Carmona said, “My biggest motivation was Pete, even though he was on the sidelines.”

Over the years, I’ve crossed paths with a lot of special student-athletes, and there’s no question in my mind that Pete Sandoval was special.

Attaboy, Pete.

I wish I could’ve had the opportunity to have gotten to know you better.