California School of the Deaf football team stuns league to win title, nearly lands spot in sectional championship

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

They are a growing football powerhouse, the kind that uses both physicality and skill to stir fear in any foe. They have a small roster -- just 19 players suit up for the varsity football squad -- and are smaller in stature than nearly any opponent, with no player reaching even 200 pounds, let alone the 300 often breached by top linemen.

Yet the most notable factor for this budding California football dynamo is the way that it completely tunes out all criticism and trash talk in unison. As it turns out there is a powerful reason for that, and it has nothing to do with the class of the players themselves. Rather, it is because they are all deaf.

Don't try to talk trash to the team's head coach, either. He's deaf, too.

As reported by the Fremont Argus, the Fremont (Calif.) California School for the Deaf raced to a 10-2 record in the 2012 season, by far the best in school history. In the process, the Eagles earned the North Central II/Bay League title and nearly played their way into a sectional title game slot.

The team's rise has been as stunning as it has been inspiring. Using an Oregon-style fast-strike offense supported by giant play boards and American sign language hand signals during drives, the Eagles silently racked up a veritable trove of points, scoring 329 in 11 games, as one of the team's victories came via a forfeit.

The offensive explosion keyed a renaissance that earned the school its first league football title in 10 years, and only its second crown in 21 seasons. Perhaps even more poignantly, the team came within a minute of earning a first berth in the CIF North Coast Section Division V title game, with St. Vincent de Paul (Calif.) School pulling out a 13-12 victory on a final-minute touchdown.

Not that the unexpected loss tarnished the Eagles' season at all. Rather, it served as more motivation for the program to come back even stronger in 2013 and pick up where 2012 finished, with the program's new mantra providing direction for the team's football future, and the future lives of its players.

"We don't do anything different than any other program," CSD head coach Warren Keller told the Argus. "We haven't faced one opponent where we're at a disadvantage.

"After the [St. Vincent de Paul loss], I told them to keep using the 'Hard Work Philosophy' for their following sports and for the rest of their lives, and they will do just fine."

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