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Golden memories at Gold Rush Classic

By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Brendan Moore knew there was only one thing to do after a devastating 1-2 punch to his girls soccer team and the town of Galt early last week. So he dyed his Mohawk bright red, coached his heart out over the weekend and after his under-19 County Line Heat team accomplished the unthinkable, he leaped into the murky pond at Auburn’s Railhead Park. Moore said the Heat’s victory at the 49er United Gold Rush Classic wasn’t the biggest thrill for the emotionally drained group of teenagers. The real treat was being on the field to honor the memory of a fallen teammate and team mom, both of whom fell victim to cancer just last Monday. Tournament director Dennis Wingate and the other U-19 teams in the tournament re-arranged the schedule so that the Heat players could attend a memorial service for Taylor Steele. The 17-year-old had been a team captain for several years and had been battling ovarian cancer since age 12. She had started her own non-profit — Strong as Steele — to raise funds for ovarian cancer research and would have been the senior class president at Liberty Ranch High School. Steele passed away Monday morning. That afternoon as players were still in shock, Shannon Gregorio also succumbed to cancer. She was the mother of three players - Paige, Morgan and McKenzie. Soccer was central to the lives of both Steele and Gregorio. Moore knew the games would be a chance for the players to heal and honor the memories of their loved ones. “There wasn’t any doubt we were going to come up and play this weekend because that’s the main reason we’ve been together for all these years,” Moore said. “This has been kind of a hard luck team over the years, but they played their hearts out and we got this one. It was just important to be out there playing. The results weren’t really important.” The County Line Heat won four games over the weekend, including a 1-0 decision over Land Park in the finale. Several of the Auburn-based teams showed up Saturday with signs supporting the Heat and encouraging the players, a sentiment that was not lost on Moore and his team. “It was the story of the tournament,” Wingate said. There were 75 teams involved in the Gold Rush Classic, which fields at Colfax High, Winchester Park, Bear River High and Railhead Park. Teams from all over Northern California competed in divisions from age 9 to 19. The best 49er United result came from the U-12 girls 49er Blitz, which topped fellow club team the 49er Freedom for the title. In U-11 girls action, the 49er United Power Shots rallied past the Shooting Stars to clinch a tie for second place. The Loomis Storm placed first in the U-10 girls tournament with a 1-0 win over PYSL Top Notch in the title game. The 49er United U-14 Gators placed second while the U-9 girls 49er United Shooting Stars placed third. The 49er United Net Rippers were also third in the U-10 tournament. In U-19 boys play the 49er United Storm placed second. The U-11 49er United Strikers took third place while the Loomis Cosmos took the U-11 title.