After getting off to its best start since 2009, the Fountain Valley High football program was struck by tragedy over the weekend.
Scott Panique, the third-year linebackers coach of the Barons, died on Sunday, said head coach Jimmy Nolan. He was 38.
Nolan recalled Panique as a man who was there for the kids through thick and thin. Panique had expressed concerns that in managing his full-time job in the mortgage banking industry, he would not be able to be around the team as much as a coach should.
Nolan implored Panique to reconsider, asking him to just come when he could. Once he caught the coaching bug, Panique could not stay away, showing up even on the days he had called in to say he was too busy with work, said Nolan.
“He was literally just looking out for the kids,” Nolan said. “He felt like he didn’t want to be a hypocrite in not showing up, even though he’s got to make money, he’s got to pay a mortgage, he has bills.
“That’s just the type of guy he was. He led by example. For me, what I liked most about Scott was his character. When I say character, the main thing that he brought to the table was integrity.”
Panique had been a part of Nolan’s coaching staffs since 2015, when the two coached together at Lakewood.
The Barons had improved to 4-0 this season with a 50-0 shutout of Long Beach Rancho Dominguez on Friday in a nonleague game.
Many of the Fountain Valley players took to Twitter to honor and remember Panique, with senior running back and linebacker Mathew Fuiava saying, ‘This season’s for you, Coach.” The statement was followed by two hearts, which were blue and gold, the school colors of Fountain Valley.
In 1996, Panique was an offensive guard for Mater Dei’s USA Today national championship football team. The following year, Panique was named team captain for the Monarchs in a senior year that saw him receive All-Orange County honors while playing on both sides of the ball.
Panique also played college football at Michigan, where he walked on and served as a backup fullback for all four years he played with the Wolverines.
“This is a tough one on all of us here at Mater Dei who were associated with Scott,” longtime Monarchs football coach Bruce Rollinson said of Panique, a 1998 Mater Dei graduate. “He epitomized what Mater Dei football is all about, toughness, total preparation and pure self-confidence. He was also a friend to all. His smile would light up a room. [He was] always positive, upbeat and his faith was very important to him. He had a way of impacting everyone around him.
“This is a tough one for a lot of us who had the privilege of teaching and coaching this great young man.”
Nolan said that he was texting with Panique in the early hours of Sunday morning about the defensive game plan for the Barons’ upcoming game against Adelanto. When one of his texts went unreturned, he said he knew something was wrong.
Nolan said the cause of Panique’s death is unknown, with the family expecting to find out more from the coroner.
A rosary for Panique will take place at Mater Dei at 7 p.m. on Sunday. Panique’s funeral will be held at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach on Monday at 11 a.m.
Nolan said that the entire Fountain Valley team will attend the funeral. In addition, the Barons will play out the rest of the season with stickers bearing the initials “SP” on their helmets.
“We’re a tight-knit group,” Nolan said. “We’ll continue to mourn. We’ll continue to cry. We’re going to go out there and do what Scott would have wanted us to do. We’re going to keep it going.”
Panique is survived by his father, Ken, his mom, Marilyn, his sister, Lisa, and his brother, Brian.