It’s a high school Friday night playoff game, and the loudest noise around is the low hum of a generator powering the field lights at the California School for the Deaf.
The lack of auditory stimulation is replaced by visual stimulation. The non-American Sign Language viewer can still feel the vibe of a community excited by a team that plays in the first round of the Southern Division 2 of 8 playoffs and may end up being the best in school history.
Teammates slap each other on their helmets as they run up and down the sideline as the Cubs land after landing on Santa Clarita Christian. Behind them, cheerleaders ruffle pom-poms in front of spectators who whip towels like a windmill. Parents who stand and watch the dirt road outside the field applaud from time to time. There are plenty of smiles and laughter.
Why not rejoice when you win 70-12 and score a 10-0 record?
“Now the players can believe in themselves again,” said coach Keith Adams after a dominant win. “They grew up in an area where there were always people who used them because they didn’t hear. So it definitely raised morale – their self-esteem is much higher. “
Junior quarterback Trevin Adams said that in his freshman year, one of his teammates heard the opposing coach say, “Don’t lose to a deaf team.”
Trevin recalled that the coach repeated the word “deaf” over and over again as if it was an insult.
“We were very offended by that,” said Trevin, the coach’s son. “Like,“ We can’t lose to this team of deaf people, what do people think? “
The program went through ups and downs, but in its entire history it has never won a championship or even passed the second round of the play-off sections. Prior to this season, they did not have a single winning record in ten years.
“We’ve been through a long drought,” said Erica Thompson, CSDR’s public information officer.
In the past, the team has not been as dedicated or motivated. Trevin recalled that in his freshman year, his morale was low as casualties continued to pile up.
Many CSDR players grew up together playing around Riverside on youth teams with teammates who could hear when they were younger and later as part of CSDR High School. Trevin said he knew a thing or two about the Cubs from the age of two.
With an additional season of experience on the horizon, players getting stronger and faster thanks to weightlifting and a close-knit group, Caroline Adams – Adams’ wife and Trevin’s mom – said the group has “potential” in 2020.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic nullified all plans for the season. Many did not see each other for a year and a half.
COVID-19 has been tough on the program for many reasons. According to Adams and his son, many of the kids on the team do not have sign language families. Cut off from the comfortable environment of the team and school, where they could freely express their thoughts through gestures, it was “hard,” Trevin said.
“There is no real connection here, which can be a little frustrating. It can be difficult to communicate – it ends up getting a little lonely, ”Adams said.
When the team was able to get back together in the summer, the players were very happy to train and fight again, reunited.
“We haven’t seen each other for so long and some of us didn’t have access to the language, so they didn’t communicate at all,” Trevin said. “It was very important for all of us to get together.”
The break gave players and coaches a perspective, an understanding of the need for sincere communication. On top of the fact that Adams suddenly noticed that his team had gotten a hell of a lot bigger since the last time he saw them – a year and a half before the younger teens did – the CSDR got down to business this fall.
The team has a different attitude. According to Trevin, they play with a special spirit and energy, and it shows: they crushed opponents in an undefeated season. Other teams have hit the CSDR 10 point just once this year.
Friday night did more of the same in their first playoff game, as Treven hit seven touchdowns, bringing CSDR to a 62-0 lead at half-time.
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Despite a big win and a backstage buzz, Trevin and receiver sophomore Jory Valencia remained expressionless after the clock reached zero.
“Ten victories do not define us,” said Valencia.
They hope that they will be determined by the championship. Both players and coaches have great motivation to prove themselves – and the deaf community in general – by ear.
“We are being discriminated against and they think we are incapable,” Trevin said. “So I think for us, if we go and win the championship, it will just prove to the whole world that their idea of the deaf is wrong.”