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By Steve Breazeale

Gemma and her father, JSerra head football coach Jim Hartigan. Courtesy photo

Back in 1997, current JSerra football coach Jim Hartigan was guiding the Santa Margarita football team to an undefeated season and a CIF-SS Division 5 championship. Current Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer was playing for Hartigan and the Eagles in what would be a historic run.

But there was something that happened off the field before that championship game that makes JSerra’s Friday night homecoming game against Trabuco Hills more personal for the Haritgan clan.

Three days before kickoff, Jim’s wife, Gina, gave birth to their eldest daughter, Gemma.

A day after being released from the hospital, Gina took newborn Gemma out to the Eagles big game so the two of them could cheer for Jim.

“The whole family was there to see (Gemma) and watch the game,” Gina Haritgan said. “It was an amazing game and an exciting time. It’s a very spirited and memorable time in our family’s life.”

Fast forward 14 years to September 28, when Gemma, 14, will be out on the field to literally “cheer” for her dad as a freshman member of the JSerra cheer squad. It will be the 14th straight homecoming game she’s attended.

The Lions (4-0) are looking to maintain their unbeaten streak against the Mustangs (4-1) out of the South Coast League and it should be a tough contest.

Gemma no doubt knows the stakes; she’s been there before—on the sideline, cheering for dad.

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