By Michael Feliciano
Following two straight seasons without a win, and after more than a year of city lockdowns, the George Washington High School football team – the Eagles – scored a victory over Galileo High School, 19-14 at their first home game.
A week later, they started a new streak, this time a winning one, beating Burton High School, 25-6.
It has been a long road for this team. But, if their resolve is any indication, they could soon be soaring into the playoffs while looking to remain a competitive threat for years to come.
“We had been playing well and were due for a win,” said dedicated parent/supporter David Mertz. He has been with the team since 2019, assisting the players with their recruiting efforts. “It was an incredible first home game and a lot of fun,” he said at a recent practice session.
The Richmond District stadium has stunning panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown San Francisco and was touted as one of the top 10 high school football stadiums in the country by a CBSsports.com affiliate.
The school itself boasts several distinguished alumni who have gone on to become professional athletes, including Pro Football Hall of Famer Ollie Matson, and Jim Sochor, who was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame as head coach for UC Davis.
But local interest in youth sports, particularly football, took a downturn over recent years due to several factors, including safety concerns. Also, many working-class families have moved out of the City, one of the most expensive places to live in America.
However, the football program saw a renaissance led by a handful of students who began to recruit fellow classmates and incoming freshman, going from just 15 players two years ago to more than 50 coming into this season. Also, thousands of dollars have been raised to purchase field equipment and lockers for the school’s stadium through snapraise.com, a fundraising platform for high school sports teams, groups, and clubs. Their next goal is to raise $12,000 which they hope to use for new uniforms.
When the COVID-19 lockdown in San Francisco put a halt on all team sports for almost 18 months, no one knew what to expect.
To keep the team fresh, the coaching staff decided to put together weekly video conference calls with their athletes to go over the playbook, and the students worked out on their own to remain in shape.
As schools outside the City were allowed to start competing last spring, San Francisco’s school district maintained the lockdowns, leaving a litany of doubts right before the start of the season. However, the team was finally able to get together for summer workouts after getting approval from the City.
While the team was able to start on time for summer football, Head Coach Mike (who asked not to use his last name) felt they would still be behind the other teams outside of the district who were allowed to hold a spring season once COVID restrictions in their respective districts were scaled back.
“Our plan was to keep it all very basic and only work on skills such as blocking and tackling,” he said. “But to our surprise, we were competitive with teams outside San Francisco. I’m very excited about how the kids have responded to the start of the season despite all they’ve gone through over the last year.”
And although their losing streak continued as the season got underway, a glimmer of hope remained with every passing week until they finally broke through.
For Mertz, whose younger son is expecting to join the program next year, the first win was a major step in the right direction. But the overall goal, he said, has been to revitalize the youth sports program. Mertz said he feels it is an essential aspect of the high school experience.
“I think giving these kids the opportunity to enjoy high school sports is important and they’ve been inspiring across the board,” he said.
It has clearly been a group effort by the students, the parent supporters, and the coaching staff who have worked together to bring this football program back to where it once was. They have high hopes that much more is yet to come.
“It’s exciting looking forward to the rest of the season and our team is hopeful and hungry to make the playoff and beyond,” Coach Mike said.
To donate, go to snap-raise.com/v2/fundraisers/washington-high-school-football-2021#/ For a schedule of upcoming games, go to maxpreps.com/high-schools/washington-eagles-(san-francisco,ca)/football/schedule.htm.
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