Is your game going to be streamed so I can watch it?
That was the last face-to-face conversation Isaac Hungerbuhler had with his father before Jason Hungerbuhler headed up to Georgia to race his truck at the Climax MotorSports Park.
The answer, unfortunately, was no.
The next day, Oct. 10, 2020, Isaac Hungerbuhler was in New Smyrna Beach, getting ready to play football for the Suntree Viera Youth Football League’s U14 team.
As they pulled up to the field, Isaac and his mother, Candice DellaRocco, were aware that Jason Hungerbuhler’s truck had crashed. Isaac’s sister, Leena, was at the track.
“I knew, but I didn’t think anything of it,” said Isaac, now a Viera High School sophomore.
“I mean, the trucks are built for that, so I thought he’d be all right.”
As Isaac warmed up for his game, his mother went to the car to get her phone charger. On the way back, Candice DellaRocco got a call from the wife of her ex-husband’s best friend. It was serious. They needed to get up there right away.
Isaac Hungerbuhler used to wear No. 59 throughout his youth football career. Now, the defensive end wears No. 10 to honor his father, who died on the 10th day of the 10th month in 2020. He writes the word Dad on the tape that goes around his wrist. And he’s dedicated the rest of his football career to the memory of his father.
“I think he’s handling it pretty good,” DellaRocco said. “I think what he’s doing, and hopefully it continues to be this way … instead of spiraling into a negative, he’s more manifesting as ‘I have to do the right thing or my dad would be disappointed,’ which is not something I’ve ever said to him.”
Isaac credits his mother, his sister and Jason’s friends for helping him move forward after the loss of his father. The Viera Hawks have helped, too.
You hear football players and coaches talk all the time about how they’re a family. Well, this is one time where that truly is the case.
“A friend of mine coached when he was on the 14U team, so I knew what happened,” Viera High coach Shane Staples said. “He comes from a good family. There are people around him who care.
“We’ve embraced him as a family, Viera football wise. And I think the community has surrounded him, stepped up and really treated him like family. That’s why he’s at Viera now.”
Staples isn’t wrong. Despite the fact that he had played for the SVYFL since he was seven, Hungerbuhler was slated to go to Rockledge High, where his sister had graduated from. But in the wake of his father’s death, the decision was made to send Isaac to Viera.
“After Jason died, I asked Isaac if he wanted to go to Viera to stay with his football family because at least that was one thing that was going to remain the same — the football team and their parents. Some of those parents, he’s known since he was born. All of them knew Jason because he would be at the games.”
Although Isaac didn’t play that game on Oct. 10 in New Smyrna Beach, he was back on the field the following week when the SVYFL hosted Merritt Island. Those on hand for support included Derek Smith, who was still Viera’s varsity coach at the time.
Whenever No. 10 made a big play that day — and he made a few of them — he pointed to the sky. He doesn’t really do that now, but that doesn’t mean his father isn’t still on his mind.
“We had a very close connection,” Isaac said. “We did everything together. We had all of our hobbies together, so we related on a lot of things. That was nice.”
As a freshman last season, Hungerbuhler was able to get some valuable playing time against opposing offensive tackles who were bigger, stronger and faster than anything he was used to.
Now, he’s ready to step what could be the next great class at Viera High.
“I’m hoping we’ll do something good this year,” Isaac said. “I’m calling it now — (the class of) 2025 is the best the county will see in a long time. At Cocoa, at Rockledge, at every school in the county … maybe we can just throw it in the football category … 2025 is the most athletic class there is.”