The American football team at California School for the Deaf (CSDR) in Riverside, California, had a season straight out of Hollywood. The team recorded a spectacular 12-1 season after having fallen short of a winning season in previous years. They turned it all around in the 2021-22 season, going on a 12-game winning streak. The team’s only loss came in their last game of the season to Faith Baptist High School.
The players were devastated at the loss as they wanted to achieve a perfect unbeaten record. “The biggest hurdle we had was losing that last game,” said Felix Gonzales, the Co-captain of the football team, he continues saying, “I know at the end of the game we were all upset. I know the coach had mentioned that we have unfinished business. So, it just really encouraged us to work harder this year.” “I remember when they lost their first game. I know the coach, players, and the community were upset. Still, I think this is a good lesson where we can start to grow by increasing our commitment,” Jeremias Valencia, the Athletic Director of CSDR. “We are good, but it’s not enough. We have to keep working on it!”
That would be the motto for this new 22-23 season, keep working hard. The coaching staff and the players were incredibly proud of their almost undefeated season. However, all of them were very upset at that one loss. Due to the loss at the end of the season, the coach put a heavy emphasis on the weightlifting program to help the athletes become stronger.
Assistant Coach Kaveh Angoorani further emphasizes the impact weightlifting has on the players by saying, “Weightlifting helps these boys strengthen themselves. They have the skills but not so much the strength. So, developing the strength through Weightlifting, it makes us stronger, we have the skillset, but now we are quicker and are able to take these hits from larger students now.” The Co-captain of the football team, Felix Gonzales also stressed the importance of weightlifting, but he also mentioned playing smarter. “It’s just about playing smarter than last year. The goal is to get through that end zone instead of taking extra steps when you don’t need to. The whole goal is to get to the end zone and make that touchdown.” Playing smarter and the weightlifting program is paying dividends as CSDR are 1-0, winning their first game of the new season against the Chadwick Dolphins 54-16. They even had NFL legend Kurt Warner cheering them on for their first game of the season.
Nike will also play a part in their story as the school has an agreement deal with the brand to provide equipment that the players and coaching staff might need. The agreement sees Nike helping the school by giving equipment like gloves, shirts, workout gear and shoes. They also sponsor the school’s other sports like Volleyball and Basketball. “We are trying to make sure that the relationship continues,” said Assistant Coach Angoorani. Athletic Director Valencia explains how the school will be receiving about $10,000, which includes home and away uniforms, hats and more.
It’s amazing that Nike is generous enough to provide these student-athletes with the equipment they need. Another crucial thing that will go towards helping both the football program and the school would be CSDR’s state budget. The impact might not be seen immediately as their budget doesn’t increase based on the enrollment or the number of students they have. However, Athletic Director Valencia says, “I think one or two more seasons after this current one, I think we’ll improve on our football and soccer facilities. We’ll have nice a nice football, soccer and baseball field.” The A.D. and the school are currently in talks asking for things like engineers and blueprints, which will be a long process.
However, their story doesn’t end there, as Disney+ is making a television series about the CSDR and the 2021 Cubs Football program. The series will be produced by ABC Signature, which is part of Disney Television Studios. According to Erika Thompson, “Troy Kotsur, who won an Oscar for “CODA,” will play the team’s coach. Marlee Matlin, who has won two Oscars, “CODA” and “Children of a Lesser God,” is also part of the project.” She continues, “A lot of extraordinary people are creating this series together. Director Ron Shelton, writer Kevin Falls, and amazing producers like Gary Foster, Rainn Wilson, and more. Disney will also consult with John Maucere, a football alumnus of CSDR.
When speaking to the players and the coaches, they were visibly excited at the thought of Disney making a T.V. series about them and their accomplishments. Ricardo Terrazas, a senior was one of these players shaking with excitement asked about being portrayed by Hollywood actors. Terrazas said, “Oh, I’m excited, I’m super excited! I mean, this is an astounding feat for us.” He continues, “I’m looking forward to being able to see us on T.V., seeing someone play me as a character on a television show.” Assistant Coach Angoorani added, “We’re thrilled to have them make this T.V. series of us!” To catch these athletes in action or follow their season visit http://csdrathletics.com/8-man-football/