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Amphi holds memorial service for legendary HS football coach Friedli

Posted at 11:48 AM, Jul 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-06 01:14:18-04

Members of the Tucson community came together for a memorial service for legendary Amphi High School head football coach Vern Friedli Saturday afternoon. Friedli died in July at 80 years old after complications from suffering multiple strokes.

Friedli coached the Panthers for 36 years, and 288 of his 331 career wins came at Amphi. He retired in 2011 as the winningest coach in Arizona high school football history, until Marocs De Niza's Paul Moro broke his record last year.

But it wasn't just his coaching abilities that made him an icon in the community -- it was also his ability and desire to make a difference in peoples' lives. 

"He was like a father to everybody," Anthony Lancaster said.

Lancaster played for Friedli during the 1980's, and later went on to join the U.S. Air Force. He attributes many of his successes in life to lessons Friedli taught him while playing high school football.

"He was an awesome man, he made everybody's lives better," he said.

One of those lives he made better? Roland Youngling. 

Youngling played football at Amphi High during Friedli's last few years as the coach, and graduated the year Friedli retired -- 2011. Youngling said he made him love football, but more importantly, taught him life skills.

"To dot the i's, cross the t's, make sure the little things get done," Youngling said. "Because that's where it counts. That's what makes you extraordinary."

Youngling learned to love football so much under Friedli that he decided to follow in his coach's footsteps. Now, he is one of the football coaches at Amphi.

"Honestly, to coach here is now is an honor," he said.

Youngling and Lancaster were just two of hundreds gathered inside the Amphi High gymnasium to honor Friedli's life and legacy -- championship banners hanging from the rafters. People of all ages from all over Arizona and other parts of the country joined together to celebrate the great moments, and what Friedli was able to do for the community. 

Scott Joiner played for Friedli in the 1990s. He believes the reason Friedli was able to touch so many lives was due to his approach to football and life.

"For a lot of coaches, it's all about winning," he said. "It's all about the x's and o's on the field. But to Coach Friedli, it was about the x's and o's in life."

When Joiner needed a coach the most, Coach Friedli was there to draw up a play to help him in life.

"I had a really troubled childhood, and Coach Friedli was actually one of very few people that knew that," Joiner said. "He was always very supportive of me. If you get one person that believes in you, anything is possible."