Injuries force California football team to forfeit while leading

Cameron Smith

Earlier this fall, Prep Rally told you about the Seattle high school that was forced to forfeit at halftime after six first-half injuries decimated its roster. Well, as drastic as that case was, a forfeit the same day in Southern California may have been even more bizarre: Capistrano Valley Christian School (Calif.) was actually leading one of the reigning state finalists, 8-6, when it forfeited at halftime of a game against Hope Center (Calif.).

Both teams compete in the California Interscholastic Federation's eight-man football division, a level that allows smaller schools to compete with eight players instead of the 11 traditional teams use. The smaller number of players on the field tends to open up offensive channels and levels the playing field across a division that is hyper-sensitive to differences in student populations. Unfortunately, it also leaves some schools extremely vulnerable to injuries.

[Related: Rhode Island school forfeits game over size of opponent's players ]

Capistrano Valley Christian School (CVCS) is definitely one of those injury-susceptible schools. CVCS is a small private school which fields a football roster of only 11 players, and after two key starters were lost for the game with injuries in the first half against Hope Center, the team (already missing two players because of injury) had no choice but to wave a reluctant white flag. In fact, the injuries weren't even stretched out: They came in the course of a single play.

"On one play we had two kids go down, both with what we thought at the time were broken legs," Chris Fore, the CVCS head football coach and athletic director, told Prep Rally. "One ended up having a broken tibia/fibula that required a rod inserted into his leg, the other was not a broken fibula like we thought, but a really bad sprained ankle.

"That left us with nine kids, two of which were 14-year-old freshmen that I was not about to put in against these 17-18-year-old juniors/seniors."

[Related: Another injured team forfeits at halftime]

Despite leading 8-6 at the time of forfeit -- Hope Center scored a touchdown on the play when both Eagles were injured -- the game was scored as a 2-0 victory for Hope Center, a loss which dropped CVCS to No. 9 in the CIF eight-man rankings. The two injuries were sustained by Josh Hector, the CVCS senior you see above who has starred for the team at middle linebacker, and Sam Sukut, an emerging freshman defensive back. Hector was lost for the season with the double break in his leg, but Sukut could return as soon as this week.

And while CVCS was forced to reschedule a game the following week -- their opponent would have fielded a fully healthy 25-man roster against CVCS' nine-man squad -- the Eagles will return to action Friday night at St. Michaels Prep, where they will have to find a way to compete despite fielding as few as three reserves.

As daunting as that may be, the loss of Hector may be even more significant. The stalwart recorded 17 tackles in a single game against Upland Christian Academy, and provided significant defensive leadership as one of the team's six seniors.

Nonetheless, Fore is confident the team will respond from disappointment and an unexpected three-week break with a strong start to its league schedule.

"We really have a shot to [win the league championship] if we can keep our 11 kids healthy," Fore told Prep Rally. "We'll have two players who were injured for the Hope Center game back this week, so we'll have 11 true 'varsity' athletes again.

"My kids keep saying that they will make a movie about this team after we win the league championship because of the adversity we have been going through."

Fore's optimism turned out to be well founded. CVCS won its first game back in action on Friday night in an old-fashioned rout, thrashing St. Michael's Prep, 47-0. The game was the first league matchup of the Eagles' season, but if it serves as any indication of what's to come, Fore's players might just win a league title -- and make that movie -- after all.

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