The final games of the regular season passed quickly, and we all anticipated the play-offs. The first team who tried to knock us out was Fremont, and we made quick work of them. Our eyes were already fixed on the next week when when we would once again meet our rivals, the dreaded “T-House,” and where we would trample their red and gold colors into the dirt.
The second Taft game was played on their field and was the complete opposite of what had happened four weeks earlier. From the moment we stepped out onto the field, we knew things would be different. We ready to avenge our loss and prove to our rivals that we were not to be taken lightly. We started the game off slow but quickly set to the task of embarrassing them. Their band desperately tried to bolster the Toreadors. Their crowd and cheerleaders shouted themselves hoarse, but to no avail. We rubbed their faces in the dirt and payed them back tenfold for the crushing loss they had delivered us.
When we won, every Birmingham fan rushed out onto the field, ecstatic in our triumph. We celebrated on the bus ride back to school, but we had already moved on to the next week where we would meet Narbonne. We had unfinished business with Narbonne. They had knocked us out of the play-offs the previous year and we were more than willing to return the favor. We shut them out.
That win brought us to the final game of the 2004 season, and our pre-game dinner in the teachers’ cafeteria. We finished our dinner, waved and hugged the Team Moms good-bye, and hopped on the bus that would take us to the Coliseum and our destiny.
When we arrived at our battlefield, we were in awe. The lights shined perfectly on the pristine field and the stands seemed to reach into the heavens endlessly. It was almost surreal, and many of us had to pinch ourselves to make sure we weren’t dreaming. We then retreated to the locker room and went about our pre-game rituals with solemn dignity. The excitement and electricity in the air was thick like the air on a very hunid day. But no matter the anxiety and butterflies, and bloodlust, every player was relaxed and calm. We donned our helmets and pads and gear like the armor of the knights of Medieaval lore. We were preparing for war, and we looked every bit the part of warriors.
After we were all suited up, we jogged out onto the field to stretch and warm-up. The audience had already started to file into the stadium. they were ready to witness the spectacle that was to appear shortly.
After we finished, we returned to the locker room for a final moment of respite before the game. It was the calm before the storm. Certain players and coaches shared stirring words meant to harden the heart and steel the soul. Some of the most stirring words were spoken by a small lineman wearing number seventy-five. He spoke of greatness and destiny. He spoke of Caesar and why he was so great. He repeated three little words in Latin, that translated mean “I cam, I saw, I conquered.” He asked them what they wanted to be, the conquerors or the conquered. He knew what their reply would be. We rallied behind those words and headed out to face our enemy. we marched out onto the battlefield with a warcry in our throats, determination in our hearts, and faith in our souls. Not one of these brothers in arms doubted our abilities that night.
When the kick-off came, it was if a storm had rolled in. The roar of the crowds was like the howling winds of a hurricane. The sweat dripped off of every player as if it poured from the sky. And we marched down the field like the great whitecaps on a stormy sea. We owned the first quarter but Dorsey started to come back in the second. The storm began to die. After forty-eight minutes came half time — the eye of the storm.
Back in the locker room, every man searched his soul for the resolve it would take to win the game. Some bled, others were hurt, and everyone was tired, but we refused to let greatness slip from our grasp when it was so close. The coaches offered encouraging words and wisdom, but it was beyond the point when we could be bolstered by anyone but ourselves. We reached deep and found our fortitude.
The storm returned with a vengeance when we took the field again. We exited the tunnel looking every bit like the titans we were. We had already won the game when we returned, and Dorsey knew it. We cleaned up in the second half and played some of the most inspired football that Los Angeles has ever seen. When the last second ticked-off the clock, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. . . and then went wild.
The game was a big win, but it represented more than that. It marked the end of a generation and the beginning of another. We were now family. We shared an unspoken bond, a platonic love known only to men who have been through trials by fire together. But we didn’t dwell on it for long, we were too happy.
We had won and silenced all of our critics. Was it worth all the blood, sweat, and tears? Was it worth all the hardwork? Was it worth all of the pain and torture? Yes, it was, and not a single one of us would choose to do it differently. “Veni, Vidi, Vicci!”