ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It was an emotional night for many at Nusenda Community Stadium on Friday. Atrisco Heritage Academy played its first district game of the year against Cibola, and one player made his season debut after a battle with testicular cancer.

Atrisco senior Juan Lopez was diagnosed on March 2 and believed he would never play football again. After undergoing chemotherapy and surgery, Lopez overcame his battle with cancer and was able to take the field for the first time this season.

“Man, I’m so grateful to be with my teammates,” Lopez said. “I mean this is what I dreamed of ever since I got diagnosed with cancer. I’ve just been wanting to come back out here with my teammates. Through that process, going through chemo, it was tough, it was really tough.”

Lopez is considered to be a leader for the Jaguars, and his resilience has lit a fire in his team. His coaches believe he is an example of what his teammates should strive to be, and hope they follow in his footsteps.

“It’s not only cool, it’s an inspiration to all the guys, to all the coaches, to like the school,” said Jaguars head coach Howard Knezevich. “I mean, to come back from cancer, and be able to play his senior year is just tremendous.”

The defensive lineman was able to take the field for multiple series against the Cougars on Friday. As the season progresses, Lopez is expected to have a larger role in the Jaguars’ defense.

Outside of football, Lopez wants to help others going through cancer. He hopes that by sharing his story and listening to others going through similar struggles, he can motivate them to achieve things that they thought would not be possible.