It’s a perfect ending to a perfect season for members of a deaf football team in Riverside.
The California School For The Deaf’s football team completed a perfect season before claiming an impressive CIF 8-player state championship. They cruised to a championship victory with a final score of 80 to 26.
It’s the school’s first title in any sport in its 70-year history.
“I wish we had champagne like they do for the NFL teams, however we can’t do that,” said Christian Jimenez, CSD Offensive lineman. “It’s really nice to see the community brought together.”
With students and staff coming out, cheering on the newly-appointed champs in all their glory, there was a lot to celebrate.
For Jimenez and his teammates, this season was one of redemption. The team also went undefeated last season before a heartbreaking loss in the championship. Their opponents last year were the same as this year: Faith Baptist Christian School of Canoga Park.
“It’s strange,” Jimenez said. “How often do you have that opportunity to lose the state championship and then also win against them that same year? It was like that sweet revenge.”
Jory Valencia, wide receiver and quarterback, said the team was angry about last year’s defeat and came out this year with a chip on their shoulder.
“I said, ‘OK, watch out for us next year,'” Valencia said. “This time we had no injuries, we got bigger, stronger, we know what we needed to do — especially against the same team.”
Head coach Keith Adams didn’t allow last year’s devastating loss to determine this year’s fate.
“We were confident we were going to win this year because it was unfinished business for us,” Adams said.
His squad was fighting through adversity on the field, while also facing their own set of unique challenges off of it.
“Football is a great way to educate the public, that deaf people can play anything they set their mind to,” Adams said. “The only thing they can’t do is hear. Our bodies are the same. They have to work just as hard as anyone else does.”
“They thought we couldn’t be in the championship game,” said Athien Hernandez. “We can play the game, we can play football and we can play at a high level.”
The small team is making a big impact across the country, now ranked ninth in the nation.
Last year’s team made national headlines and Adams and some of the players were honored during Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. While that season ended in heartbreak, the impact across the globe was immeasurable.