Photo by Sandy Huffaker, Jr.
Holtville High Vikings against Santa Fe Christian. “Chris! Chris! Watch the screen now, watch the screen! Get up for the challenge, Danny!”
To find Holtville, California, Carrot Capital of the western world, drive east on I-8 ten miles beyond El Centro and turn left. Promenading Holtville's town square on an autumn Friday after daylight has turned, you’ll hear the cheers. Their sound carries like a sea tide. If you make your way towards the sounds, you see stadium lights. “All right,” you say to yourself. “It’s Friday night, this must be the high school football game.”
When the crowd expels a low “Ohhhhhhhhh," there has usually been a fumble or interception.
Photo by Sandy Huffaker, Jr.
All day I’d been driving through the Imperial Valley. I’d stopped at high schools in Calipatria, Brawley, Imperial, looking for a football game. Late in the afternoon I’d met Holtville High School head football coach Sam Faulk and arranged to stand with him during that evening’s game.
Faulk, in his 40s, has a bulldog’s build and ruddy face. Born in Ventura, he graduated from Cal State Northridge, majored in P.E, minored in math. Schools weren’t hiring. “I put in an application at every school from Modesto south.” He found a job in 1972 at Brawley High School teaching math and P.E., came to Holtville in 1979, was appointed head football coach in 1985. Since then he’s had 64 wins.
Lyndel Macon, band director, tells me the Holtville band's featured songs are “Land of a Thousand Dances,” “On Broadway,” “Voices of the Guns.” “And when we first come out on the field, we play ‘Fight on, Vikings.’”
Photo by Sandy Huffaker, Jr.
Holtville is a Division IV high school, which means its student population is no larger than 500 in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades combined. During the regular football season, Holtville plays in the Desert League, made up of four teams: Holtville, Calipatria, Imperial, and Mountain Empire. If they win the league, they automatically qualify for post-season play against seven of the following Division IV high schools (public and private) that play 11 -man football in and around San Diego and Imperial counties: Army-Navy, Bishop’s, Calipatria, Christian, Coronado, Holtville, Imperial, La Jolla Country Day, Marian Catholic, Mountain Empire, Parker, and Santa Fe Christian. Holtville has won five of its last six league championships and four of its last five division championships.
Cheerleaders kick up one knee, now the other, jump up and down, skip left and right, build a shaky human pyramid, all without a single bump and grind.
Photo by Sandy Huffaker, Jr.
Faulk teaches math at Holtville High and gets no slack from his teaching duties in return for coaching football. He presides over spring practice, comes in a month early for fall practice, oversees weekday practice during the season, coaches Friday night games, then puts in three hours every Saturday viewing tape and planning strategy with Holtville High athletic director and defensive coach Marv Wood and receivers coach Sean Johnson. This for two grand more a year. “It’s all worth it,” he says, “for Friday night. Showtime.”
Friday evening, trucks line West Eighth. It’s fine weather for football, dark and breezy. Now and then a snap of air reddens cheeks. I shuffle through the darkness to a gap in the fence where two women sit at a card table selling tickets. We wish each other a good evening. I purchase a ticket and walk onto the track, turn around, regard the home crowd.
Gordon Birger, trainer bows his head: “Our gracious heavenly Father, We pray that we’ll play this game aggressively, but within the rules."
Photo by Robert Burroughs
Eighty feet across and 16 rows high, the home bleachers rise up before me. This is the Jim and Linda Birger Sports Complex. On the west end, two green and white signs announce the Holtville Booster Club and the Holtville Athletic Club. Pink faces peek out from under baseball cap visors and over collars of down jackets. A half hour before the game, the bleachers are three-quarters full.
A thrown-together wooden shack sits atop the Jim and Linda Birger Sports Complex. Local radio is broadcasting tonight’s game. Off to my right, at darkness’s edge, in the end zone, Holtville players line up, Marine Corps PT style, and begin doing windmills. I wander over, find defensive coach Marv Wood.
Homecoming queen and king Ana Rosales and George Garcia
Photo by Sandy Huffaker, Jr.
Wood graduated from Holtville High in 1958, went to Cal Poly Pomona, played football and baseball for four years, and graduated in ’62. He taught in Torrance and in 1969 moved to Loyola University as head baseball coach. He was there 15 years.
Wood talks with a rural drawl, talks like a defensive coach, talks, that is, in short, direct sentences. He is what used to be called “a man’s man.” I asked Wood what brought him back to Holtville.
“Well, I was Division 1 head coach, baseball coach. I grew up here and the folks still live here. Dad lost his eyesight, couldn’t see to drive. I got a sister that’s home, but she’s on crutches and we needed somebody here, so I just came back down.”
Down at halftime. There are no jokes, no grab-ass. The players look up front where Faulk is saying, “Mistakes are killing us...”
Photo by Sandy Huffaker, Jr.
“Was it hard to get work?”
“I was here for a while, just kicking around, and then when they found out I was back, it worked out.”
“Who’s your best guy?” I ask.
“Frankly, to date, Jeff Hilfiker, our center, is the key guy for us because we pull guards, and we expect our center to be able to fill for him when he’s pulling. George Garcia is our tackle; he’s been moderately successful, but we really haven’t played our best yet.”
The stadium lights bring out the football field's green grass, make it appear as if the grass is the light-giver.
Photo by Sandy Huffaker, Jr.
“What do you want to get done tonight?”
“Well, we know we’re going up against a four-four defense. We think we can run against that, so we’re planning to stay on the ground as long as we can move the ball. Should we be able to do that, then we’ll open the game up. We’re looking for a shutout. If there’s one area where we haven’t played up to the standards that we’ve had in past years, we haven’t played good defense.”
I move down the field to Sam Faulk, who’s presiding over team warm-ups. Twenty-six Holtville players are stretching necks, ankles, calves. Everyone flops to the ground, extends his left leg on the grass, leans forward. “One, two, three. Come on, stretch!”
Radio announcer Thompson, left, with coach Faulk. “Coach, how was the game?”
Photo by Sandy Huffaker, Jr.
I ask Faulk, “Who’s your best offense guy?” “He’s our halfback and wide receiver. His name is Javier Ramos, Number 15, a good football player. And our fullback, our center, and our right guard.”
“Who’re your good defense guys?”
“Just about the ones I said, we play 10 kids both ways.”
“You can only field 11 players at a time.”
A voice resonates over the stadium loudspeakers, “YOU WANT A BURRITO OR HOT DOG, A COKE? STOP BY OUR REFRESHMENT STAND.”
“Boom, da-da Boom!" The Holtville Vikings’ band, 30 strong, uniformed in green and black, high-steps onto the field. Lyndel Macon, band director, tells me their featured songs are “Land of a Thousand Dances,” “On Broadway,” “Voices of the Guns.” “And,” he adds, “when we first come out on the field, we play our Vikings fight song, ‘Fight on, Vikings.’”
I remark how spiffy the uniforms are.
“The Calapat State Prison cleans our uniforms free of charge. That saves a lot of money, it really helps.”
All the Holtville players gather under the goal posts. Gordon Birger, team trainer, a thin blond in his mid-30s, gets down on one knee and speaks to the kids. “They got good size, they got good talent, they even have players bad-mouthing you guys. I heard you guys talking about that. Guys, don’t let them come on this field and make you look silly. Like Coach said, don’t even let them get a smile on their face. Send them home, with a long drive, with their tails between their legs. Take it to them. Have fun tonight.”
Birger bows his head. “Our gracious heavenly Father, we come to you now. Lord, we thank you for this opportunity to be here tonight. Lord. We thank you for all the blessings you’ve given us, we thank you for watching over this team. We pray that you’ll be with us tonight, Lord. We pray that you’ll give us courage to play this game, the strength to play this game, and the mind to play this game. We pray that we’ll play this game aggressively, but within the rules, and that we’ll be good sportsmen tonight. Lord. We ask this in the name of Jesus, Amen.”
The squad replies with an “Amen.” Twenty-six Holtville players straighten up, grasp their helmets, trot onto the field to the 50-yard line.
Birger has been Viking trainer for six years. “California requires that football teams have an EMT [emergency medical technician] on the field. I had a license and fell into it, was in the right place at the right time.
“The prayer started with me. Where I grew up, we always had a prayer before the game. I asked the coach if they had prayer, and he said, ‘If you want to lead one, lead one.’ So we began doing one before the game.
“We had a game where we came from behind and won with no time left on the clock, a 45-yard touchdown pass. So the kids wanted a prayer after the game. Now we have two. I’ve never had any trouble about it. I’ve been in the supermarket and had parents come up and tell me how much they appreciate the prayer. That’s a small town for you.”
Along the sidelines team members clap their hands, scream, “Let’s go, guys.” “Let’s do it, guys.” “Get fired up.” Team captains jog to midfield for the coin flip. Holtville wins, chooses to receive. Santa Fe Christian kicks off to the Holtville 15, the ball is run back to the 41, first and ten.
Whoops, there’s a great pass, touchdown. Wow. Cheers rock the stadium. “Go-O! Go-O! Go-O!” It was a 38-yard pass from the Vikings quarterback Branden Fusi to Javier Ramos. Jakob Rasmussen makes the point after, 7-0 Vikings. Holtville players raise their fists in salute, “All right, offense!” “Good play.” “Good play, guys.” Holtville fields eight cheerleaders, clean, pretty girls garbed in green and white, shaking pompoms. They kick up one knee, now the other, jump up and down, skip left and right, build a shaky human pyramid, all without a single bump and grind. Pelvic regions remain firmly in line.
Weaving around the cheerleaders is the team’s mascot, a big bear of a guy, dressed as a Viking warrior (toga, sandals, a long staff, and helmet fitted with horns). Sometimes he rolls in the dirt; sometimes he helps the cheerleaders, ineptly, form their pyramid; sometimes he yells at the crowd.
I ask why he isn’t on the field, playing ball. “I couldn’t make football practice. I work at a hamburger restaurant in El Centro because I bought my dad’s old truck, I need money. So the only thing I do now is come here on Fridays and jump around, be crazy. This is really fun. Some kids say, ‘You’re an idiot,’ and stuff like that, but I learned to shut it off. Other people are really nice. I’ll stop at a gas station to fill up, and they’ll go, ‘You were really good last Friday night.’
“Entertaining people is the best part of this job. I use this thing [portable loudspeaker]. It makes a Charge! sound, and right before halftime I throw candy out to the crowd. I get them to do the wave sometimes. The fans in Holtville, I’d say they are really supportive, but sometimes when we’re way behind, they just die down, it’s really quiet. So we got to get them pepped back up again.”
The stadium lights bring out the football field's green grass, make it appear as if the grass is the light-giver, that it alone, in all the universe, possesses the power of light. Watching from the sidelines gives the viewer a far different picture than that seen on TV. There is no looking down on the play, you are looking across to the ends and linebackers. The heart of the team — the guards, centers, quarterback, halfback — is in the distance, usually blocked from view by the rest of the athletes. A ball is snapped, linemen meld into each other, a two-second pause and the ball is often passed downfield on the far side, utterly beyond sight, or, equally beyond sight, a running back runs on the strong side.
Runs are nothing more or less than a stampede, a mammalian herd frightened beyond its ability to stand still, 20 guys and a cloud of dust. It is frequently impossible to see who has carried the ball until after the play is over and the players begin to disentangle themselves.
Still, this is the place to be for the feel of it, for the whoosh of it. The game is much faster when viewed from the field. Seen from bleachers, football can seem planned, controlled. Down here what you see is random, brutal chaos. And, down here, you have the bonus of hearing leather popping, the air suddenly pushed out from flat stomachs by a well-placed shoulder pad, the grunts, and the “son-of-a-bitches.”
Back on the field, the Vikings have kicked off, and Santa Fe makes a terrific run back to Holtville’s 35-yard line. Faulk screams to his players, “Use your shoulder pads!”
The teams line up, Santa Fe’s quarterback counts off, whistles blow, two yellow flags are thrown in the air. It’s a big, big off-sides penalty against Holtville. Santa Fe now on the Vikings 30.
The hometown crowd begins to chant, “Defense, Defense!” In the upper stands, underneath the “Holtville Booster Club” sign, a dozen men, who have imbibed, perhaps, a bit too much festive cheer, rise to their feet and bellow, “Big D! Go D!” Holtville cheerleaders prance, shake their pompoms, yell, “Fire it up! Fire it up! Fire it UP and UP and UP!” Faulk waves both arms, orders his guys, “Watch inside now, Mark, see how they shift. Cover One. Cover One. Yeah, Yeah.”
Holtville intercepts. The crowd goes nuts. People leap to their feet, “YEAH, YEAAAAHHHH, YEAH!” Faulk turns to receivers coach Sean Johnson. “Are they going to give it to us?”
Sean: “Yeah, it was a clean interception.” Flaying defense, Javier Ramos made the interception. First play of the new series, Vikings quarterback Branden Fusi throws an 11-yard pass to Jason Garewal, then hits Ramos (now playing offense) on a 50-yard bomber down the right sidelines to score again. Band kicks in with the “Fighting Vikings” song. Crowd thunders. Cheerleaders scream, “Let’s get a little bit rowdy! Let’s get a little bit rowdy! Let’s get a little bit ROWDY!” Point after is missed. Vikings 13 -Santa Fe 0.
I find Faulk, ask, “You’re doing more passes than you thought, right?”
“Yeah, they stopped our running game so we’ve gone to the pass, seems to be working. But now you watch, it will open up the run.”
Santa Fe Christian has one great runner, and a solid B quarterback, and that’s about it. The Vikings kick off, Santa Fe returns to their 40-yard line. A couple runs up the middle go nowhere. I figure this game is history. Then Santa Fe completes a 54-yard pass play and scores a touchdown. Amazing. After point is missed. Vikings 13 - Santa Fe 6. We got us a ball game.
Kick off. Vikings receive, run the ball back to their 20, and I ask myself, “Can Holtville go in for the kill?”
Yes, they can. Fusi marches his club 80 yards in 12 plays. “THAT’S RAMOS FOR A TOUCHDOWN, THAT’S A 27-YARD TOUCHDOWN RUN.” Point after is missed. Holtville 19, Santa Fe 6.
Wood yells so loud his voice rings in my ears.
“Kick off team, let’s go, let’s go, tackle somebody. Harlem, get in for Miller.”
“HOLTVILLE WILL BE KICKING OFF FROM THE 35-YARD LINE.”
Cheerleaders jump up and down, do the “Let’s get a little bit rowdy” thing again. The mascot thrusts his six-foot staff towards the field, brings it back to his chest, pumps it up and down, does a little hop-hop dance, turns back to the crowd, screams,
Holtville kicks, Santa Fe catches on their five.
runs to mid-field, stalls, fourth and one. A Holtville player standing on the sidelines next to me screams, “Watch for the quarterback sneak! Watch for the quarterback sneak!” Santa Fe tries a quarterback sneak, makes it, “Ohhh, dammmmn!"
It all goes very fast. It is as if you were seeing
the game through a super wide-angle lens, that is, seeing only the five players playing closest to the camera. As you move in towards the center and out towards the distant tight end, the human figures become smaller and smaller until they appear no bigger than tiny tin toy soldiers.
You learn to listen to the fans in the bleachers. They will cue. When a loud cheer erupts, a hometown pass has been caught. When the crowd expels a low “Ohhhhhhhhh, ’’there has usually been a fumble or interception. Here, on the sidelines, it is just fog and guess.
“Back, Ibarra,” Faulk calls out to a linebacker, “back a little bit. Wider, wider, wider!”
Faulk yells, “Andy, move up.” To the referee, “He’s holding, holding, get him, get him!” Then to the outside linebacker, “Spread 30, go, go, hurry it up.” Players along the sidelines are shouting, “Go, come on, O! Come on, let’s light it up, light it up!” Santa Fe tries a run off the left tackle, fumbles. Holtville recovers on the 25.
Halftime arrives, 19 to 6. I follow the team off the field, over the track, into the darkness (past two high school couples kissing and rubbing) and into a classroom.
It is an ordinary classroom. Room 28. Faulk teaches math here. Inside are five rows, five desks to a row, and four green chalkboards. Hung by a door is the Code of Honor: “We are proud to be students of Holtville High School. We pledge to each other and ourselves to abide by this code of honor...”
The players slouch onto desks. There are no jokes, no grab-ass. The players look up front where Faulk is saying, “Mistakes are killing us...” Defensive coach Marv Wood breaks in, “What happened to the linebacker? Where is the down man?” He turns to the chalkboard, chalks a diagram, asks a kid in the second row, “Are you the wing back, is he down?”
Wood studies the Xs and Os, “And this guy is out here?” Wood points to an X in the backfield. “You bet.”
Wood redraws the diagram, “This guy right here is the cause of the problem. He’s even making tackles on the offside play. Nobody’s blocking him so we’re far better off chop-blocking this guy. Seventy-three doesn’t seem like a problem, we’ve been running this with pretty good success.” Wood faces the squad. “This team has not even seen you play. We have done more to stop ourselves than they have, by either jumping offside, lining up offsides, blocking somebody in the back after a gain, driving a face mask, those kind of things.” He puts his hands down to his sides. “Guys, we got to clean up on the tackling. I got to see some shoulder pads out there. If we’re serious about wanting to win the second half of this game, we’re going to have to use the shoulder pads. Far too many arm tackles out there. Third down and six yards and they run the ball right up the middle and get six yards on it. That's sad. That’s absolutely sad.
“We get a blitz on and the quarterback gets out of it and runs upheld for 15 yards. That can’t happen. You got an alley when you’re blitzing; protect the alley, protect the lane you’re rushing in. Make up our minds now to clean up a little bit.
“Kickoff team, hey, we can’t give them a 40-yard return. If you can’t play on the kickoff team, if you’re not willing to get down and use your shoulder pads, then we’re going to replace you. It’s that simple. I’d like to see us come out and establish a running game against this ball club, clean it up the second half, and let’s suck it up, you lineman, stay with your blocks. Coach.”
Faulk moves forward. “What can I say? Just quit making the mistakes, we’re beating ourselves. They’re not that good, we’re just giving it to them. Whatever they’ve done we’ve given them. Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes.”
Wood: “Guys, somebody managed to erase the chalkboard. What we put on the board is our goal, it was a shutout. I haven’t seen that. I haven’t seen us play anywhere near our capabilities on defense. I mean rough, hard, go-get-em football with the shoulder pads. I have not seen that. Where’s it at, guys? We got to have it this half. They do not score this half.”
Faulk: “Let’s go.”
I follow the team back into the darkness, past the rubbing couples, to midfield. We are met by the accentless stadium announcer’s voice. “THE HOLTVILLE CITY WATER WILL BE TURNED OFF FROM ABOUT 1:30 TONIGHT AND WILL NOT BE ON UNTIL 8:00 IN THE MORNING.”
I walk beyond the bleachers to the refreshment stand. Behind a plywood counter a half dozen volunteers serve pastries, cupcakes, hot dogs, popcorn, coffee, and soda. Much hustle and bustle. Volunteers accept orders with a “Hi, Carry.” “Jim, what do you need?” “Ruth, that’s a lovely sweater.” To a 10-year-old girl: “Melda, no, you can’t change your mind again.”
Second half begins, Santa Fe receives, runs back to their 32. Next play, a pass to the weak side tight end brings a yellow flag, referee calls interference on Holtville. Ball is moved to the 47, Santa Fe Christian first and ten.
The entire Holtville Athletic Club swings into action, members stand on wooden benches, howl and woof. Then, “Let ’em play, REF! Come on, let ’em play the GAME!” Cheerleaders begin to work, “Let’s go, Let’s go, L-E-T-S G-O! Yeah!!”
The teams face off, Faulk cries, “Chris! Chris! Watch the screen now, watch the screen! Get up for the challenge, Danny!”
Santa Fe Christian quick punts, a whole bunch of red beetles run downfield into a whole bunch of green beetles, green and red beetles fall to the ground, make a big pile of red-green beetles. Santa Fe recovers, unbelievable.
Santa Fe now at Holtville’s 35 yard line, first and 10. A score would make it ball game, 19-13. Could be a key series.
Next play, Santa Fe’s quarterback is sacked, thrown for a loss back to the 43-yard line. Second and 18. All is quiet. Santa Fe takes the snap, whistles blow. “LOOKS LIKE HOLDING ON THE PART OF HOLTVILLE.”
Wood leans over to Faulk, “That guy’s out for the rest of the night, coach.”
The referee steps over to the sidelines, asks receivers coach Sean Johnson, “When do you guys see films?”
Ref: “When you see that pass interference call, give me a ring and apologize, will you?”
From here on, the game swung in Holtville’s favor; the Vikings posted a convincing 26 to 6 win. Javier Ramos scored two touchdowns rushing, two more receiving.
At game’s end, the teams form two lines at midfield, move past one another, shake hands.
The Santa Fe coach trots over, shakes Faulk’s hand, “Good luck the rest of the way.”
“AGAIN FOR ALL YOU PEOPLE GOING HOME, EVERYONE REMEMBER THAT THE WATER GOES OFF TONIGHT AT 1:30.”
I ask Wood how it went.
“To my mind we had a lot better offense than this ball club did, a lot more versatile. Frankly, they played with better emotion than we did, for whatever reason, which is a little disheartening to me. I don’t know what the formula is for these guys. We’re going to have to play with better emotion, better intensity if we’re going to realize our potential this year.”
“FOR ALL THE FANS FROM SANTA FE CHRISTIAN, THANKS FOR COMING OVER THE HILL AND HAVE A SAFE JOURNEY HOME.”
“They’ve shown some emotion but not with any consistency. They’ve shown what they’re capable of doing. Blythe, last quarter, they’ve played with emotion like they wanted to win. Come out here and you know, it’s not what’s in our heads, it’s what’s in their heads.”
Faulk and I climb the stadium bleachers. Before us are two radio announcers. Cal Mandel and Jim Thompson. Jim looks up. “Coach, how was the game?”
“It seems like we were fighting field position all night long. We made a lot of mistakes. I was disappointed with all the mistakes we made.”
Jim: “Well, there was a number of turnovers, but the Vikings were able to cause a turnover by the Eagles fairly soon afterwards and get the ball back.” He looks down at the plywood desk top. “There’s some interesting scores going on around the Imperial Valley. You know, Calexico fell behind 20 to nothing in their game with the Yellow Jackets, and Cal, what’s the score in that game now?”
Cal: “It’s 29 to 20, the Calexico Bulldogs on top of Palo Verde, and the Bulldogs have the ball once again. They must have been lifeless in the first half, and they’ve turned it into a pretty exciting game down there.” Turns to Faulk, “Tough team, Sam,” looks again, “the Imperial Tigers lost to Bishop 9 to 7, Brawley is leading Coachella Valley 25 to 6.”
Faulk: “That surprises me. They turned it around after we played them. I guess we woke them up or did something to them. They beat Brawley last week, and they almost pulled a major upset against Calexico.”
Jim: “Now, what do we know about CETYS (Holtville plays two Mexican high school teams, CETYS and COBACH] for next week?”
Faulk: “CETYS has a couple ball players that are real fast. We’ll probably have our hands full again next week. CETYS is trying to rebuild from two years ago. We beat them pretty handily then.”
Cal: “Well, four minutes left in the Calexico game now, and they’ve got the ball, so unless something strange happens, they’re going to be 2 and 0 in Desert League play, so a lot of excitement there in Calexico. Flere, we had a very exciting game and we look forward to another good game next week as we wait for the opening of Desert League play this year. That will be Calipatria on the 29th of this month.”
Jim: “And you do have to travel to Calapat at the end of the month, and that will be in Calapat’s favor. They have a real fervent following up there. The team spirit and community spirit is building in Calapat as their program has gotten stronger over the last couple of years.”
Faulk: “Oh yeah. You hate to play on the road, but you know you have to. We’ll get a lot of fans up there too, they’ll stand on the sidelines with us.” Faulk laughs. “It’s a unique place.” Jim: “Sam, thanks a whole lot for joining us after this game. I’m pretty well finished here, Cal, what do you got to say?”
Cal: “Well, I’m pretty well finished too. I want to go home.”
Jim: “Okay. Thanks again. We’ll see you next week.”
Faulk and I walk down the stands. A woman walks up to meet us. Faulk introduces, “This is my wife Sandy.”
Sandy asks Faulk, “The last run, how far was that?”
Faulk: “About nine yards, I think.”
Sandy: “Okay, I think I got everything else.”
Faulk: “She’s our statistician.”
Sandy laughs. “Okay, first quarter was 13-0 and the touchdowns were Fusi to Javier...”
“That was about 35 yards.”
“Okay, then we had a touchdown, Holtville 49 yards, Fusi to Javier with 1:44 left. Then the kick was no good. Then we had the second quarter it was 6-13 with 6:07 left Santa Fe Christian scored on a 47 yard play, kick no good. Then with four minutes and 55 seconds left, there was a 27-yard pass, Fusi to Javier, that was on an 80-yard drive, the kick was no good, score 6-19. Okay, no score in the third and you scored in the fourth.”
Faulk: “Okay, terrific.”
“Here’s your game tape.”
The coaching staff gets together after each game at the J&M Cafe in downtown Holtville, which, on this night, is closed due to the water shutoff. We all make the ten-mile honk to El Centro and find a Carl’s Jr. Already in place is the entire Santa Fe Christian team, their cheerleaders, and coaching staff loading up for the drive to Solana Beach.
We stand in line, order, then grab a booth. In a few minutes, the waitress arrives with our food. We chat about next week’s game. Faulk nods to Wood, “I don’t know if we got a good film on these guys. It’s three weeks ago.”
Wood: “I don’t imagine they’ve changed much.”
Faulk: “They’re pretty simple.”
Wood: “They got this big guy, that’s the only thing… Just wonder how good the guy is.” Santa Fe cheerleaders break into a bone-twisting social squeal, “Reeeaaally? Cooool!" Wood continues, “According to Sean they have two players that are really good. The halfback and the tight end. The tight end, I guess, is about 6'3", over 200 pounds, runs a 4.6,4.7, which is about as fast as Javier.” Faulk: “I’ll tell you, watching CETYS and Calapat play Wood, they look like the same two teams playing each other, exact same plays.” Wood: “I really think we got to take a look at this game’s film and grade it, ’cause we’ve either got to scrimmage more, more live stuff, or we got to take more advantage of our games. We’re still making too many mistakes. And the other thing we might want to look at, with Irvngaray coming up [from the junior varsity team], do we want to give Javier a rest? I’m thinking about playing Irvngaray at tackle.” Faulk replies, “Yeah. How would that give Javier a rest?”
Wood: “Move Sole back out to tight end. Probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to let Rogers have a game next week. Let him start a game.”
Faulk: “We’ll need him down the line.” Wood: “That would free up Spiro. The only problem is, Irvngaray hasn’t been playing in a while, he’s been playing fullback, how long is jt going to take him to...”
Sean: “He’s a good athlete.”
Santa Fe’s coach arrives at our table, asks Faulk, “Who did you guys play last year in the championship?”
Faulk: “Mountain Empire, we beat them.”
Santa Fe: “They were 3 and 7.”
“What it was, they lost two league games, and Imperial lost twice, and Calapat lost twice, and the rule we had is that the school that hasn’t been there last gets to go.”
Santa Fe Coach: “Do you guys play each other twice in the conference?”
Faulk: “No, we’re only playing once. There’s only four teams in the league. We should be playing twice, but nobody wants to do it so we got to schedule here and there. We ended up with a bye. Imperial is playing a detention center in a couple weeks called Twin Pines. It’s not even a good JV game for them.”
Santa Fe: “Well, you guys got a classic program, you really do.”
“Have a good trip.”
Faulk to Wood, “We never ran Power, did we?”
Wood: “Yeah, one time. We ran it with motion, Javier.”
“How’d we do?”
“Oh, he ran around and picked up four or five yards out of it.”
Faulk, Wood, and Johnson will meet in Room 28 tomorrow morning, 9 a.m., review tapes, consider next week’s opponent and puzzle, play What If: “What if we put so-and-so here and play so and so there, that will free up so-and-so here, then we can try....” Monday is practice. Friday is the game.