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Emily Bernstein
ASU Student Journalist

Football, flatbeds and breakfast burritos: Tempe Prep traditions pull team closer

November 17, 2020 by Emily Bernstein, Arizona State University

Thaddeus Lilly's 1994 Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins turbo diesel serves as the meeting spot for breakfast burritos. (Courtesy: Thaddeus Lilly)

Emily Bernstein is an ASU Cronkite School of Journalism student assigned to cover Tempe Preparatory for 

The beep rung loudly when the barcode off of each item was scanned and handed to junior Thaddaeus Lilly to put in either a plastic or paper bag, as he worked all summer to buy a new truck. 

“It is a 1994 Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins turbo diesel. I saved up all of my money over the summer working at Safeway to buy it,” Lilly said.

Lilly worked hard to buy a truck as his work truck, and it would soon double up as a breakfast table.

The Tempe Preparatory Knights football team pre-game ritual is getting together early on Friday mornings and eating breakfast burritos. This tradition has been going on for years, and with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the season, the boys found a new way to continue making it happen. 

In pre-pandemic times, the burritos were shared together indoors, so this year they had to adjust to new regulations.

“We take them to the parking lot across from school so we can social distance,” senior Ridley Diez De Medina said.

The parking lot allows them to be cautious, but still share their Friday mornings together. 

“Our team has had a tradition of eating burritos on the morning of our games, and since I have a massive flatbed with lots of room, it was only natural for us to utilize it as a breakfast platform,” Lilly said.

His flatbed has now become the new meeting spot that the boys look forward to.

“I think it is just a good place to eat together,” Diez De Media said. “There is something very natural about sitting along the rim of the bed of a truck and talking with your teammates before a football game.” 

Ridley and his mother, Dawn Diez De Medina use the Pioneer Woman’s recipe from Food Network as a guide to make breakfast burritos for the boys with eggs, sausage, Southern-style hash browns and cheese.

“I only started doing them last year. Several moms were organizing the breakfast burritos back when Ridley was a freshman,” Dawn said. “We skipped 2018 because the mom who organized no longer had a student at the school. I picked it up and began organizing last year. Many moms volunteered to help, which is what makes it so easy to agree to do.”

A football team is only as good as the support is behind it. Tempe Prep. has an eager fan section when it comes to the parents that get involved.

“It is always awesome to be the guy carrying the burritos over as everyone cheers,” Ridley said. “There are a couple of guys on the team that are vegetarian, lactose intolerant or halal, and so I can make sure that they get burritos that they can eat, and it is important to me that we can all participate.” 

The tradition is only complete when the whole team gets to play a part in. 

“We’ve always eaten our burritos with Cholula hot sauce. It was a really goofy thing at first, but it kind of became a bonding experience for all of us,” Ridley said. 

There is something special about the breakfast burritos that the football team could not picture game-day without.

“I feel like all the players on the team are ‘my boys.’ Not having dinners this year has made it harder to get to know the freshman players, but I know the other players well from making dinners the past three years,” Dawn said.

“I love helping the boys in whatever way I can. Being there to cheer on Ridley and his friends is my top priority on Friday nights.”

The team has persevered through rough seasons and injuries, but something that cannot be taken away from the players is their whole-hearted traditions and quality time. Unlike many public schools, Tempe Prep has the advantage of small rosters, and everyone knows everyone. The parent involvement gives the players and family a connection that can be rare to larger schools.

“Once they have their helmets on they look a lot alike, but you get to know their numbers and their names and their personalities. It is like a small town school in a big city,” football mom Alyson Foster said. 

Foster's son Diego, one of the team’s star quarterbacks, transferred schools from a larger public school in Arizona. When the family first came to Tempe Prep, the smaller school welcomed them with open arms. 

“It was such a cool experience, because all of the parents there are super involved. ... Everybody knows everybody and [the boys] are all so respectful,” Foster said. 

The early pre-game Friday mornings are so unique to the Knights’ routine of Lilly’s flatbed truck, football and the Diez De Medina family’s breakfast burritos. They hope to continue this tradition for many Knight generations to come. 

“It kind of became a bonding experience for all of us," Ridley said. "I hope that tradition makes a comeback next year."