By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
A thought rolled into Tre's mind and stuck.
"We are going to win this game."
The 17-year-old senior lineman was resting in bed at his home near 35th Avenue and Buckeye Road. He lives there with his paternal grandmother, some of his nine siblings, and a few cousins.
It was September 16, one night before the Falcons would take the field against the San Luis Sidewinders, a school tucked away near Yuma on the borders of Arizona, California, and Mexico.
Soft-spoken and thoughtful, Tre's not shaken up by much anymore:
His mother long has been out of his life (he calls his beloved grandmother "Mom"), and his father died in prison when Tre was 11. Tre wears number 73 in honor of the year his late dad, Tim Fields, was born.
His uncle Albert Tellez, a surrogate father and best friend, died in his sleep last year after suffering a seizure.
But Tre isn't a bitter kid. Actually, his consideration for those around him is infinitely larger than his 310-pound body.
Tre has been playing varsity football since late in his freshman year, and he is capable on the field. He says emissaries from better football programs have approached him over the years with under-the-table offers to transfer.
But Tre has stayed put.
"Started as a Falcon, and that's what I am," he says. "This is where my friends are, and this where I'm supposed to be."
Tre was very excited about the game with San Luis. Carl Hayden had lost close games to the Sidewinders in the previous two years.
The game was scheduled for Thursday night instead of the usual Friday to accommodate the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. It was a coincidence of the calendar that would not personally affect anyone on either squad.
"One win; all I ask," Tre said on game day to no one in particular. "Been a long time. It's right here. I can taste it!"
Minutes before the opening kickoff, the public-address announcer at Falcon Field spoke to the several hundred fans in attendance (an especially large crowd for the school), his voice echoing into the neighborhood around 35th Avenue and Roosevelt:
"Welcome to tonight's game. Varsity is 0-2 at the moment, looking for its first win!"
That was an understatement.
Carl Hayden High had lost 66 games in a row, the longest losing streak of any high school football team in the United States. The Falcons hadn't won a varsity game since 2002, before anyone on the current squad had reached his teens.
The school seemed to be careening toward the national record of 81 straight defeats, set during the 1990s by tiny Glascock County in east Georgia.
Cleveland Dansby, Carl Hayden's head coach, would go into the San Luis game with a record of 0-42 at the school.
No wins in four years and counting for a man whose outstanding football pedigree included selection as Arizona Coach of the Year in the early 1990s while at South Mountain High.
Coach Dansby read his team an e-mail from a Virginia man shortly before sending them onto the field. The writer, Mike Bell, had heard about the Falcons' losing streak and felt moved to contact the coach, a stranger.
"I know a little about bouncing back against the odds," he wrote, explaining that he suffers from late-stage cancer.
"My odds aren't terrific, but I don't plan to lose, even if I run out of time. The Falcons may be statistically running uphill, but you have built a team and shown young men that it is their character of participation that will define their team way beyond the scoreboard."
He concluded, "I don't gamble on sports, but if I did, I could not bet against the Falcons. Their time is now!"
No one dared to even breathe too loudly after Cleveland Dansby finished reading. A burly man in his early 50s, the coach appears at first blush to be a hard case, but he's got a big heart and his players know it.
"Hey, fellas," Dansby said to the 28 young men in their blue-and-gold uniforms. "That guy put the nut in the shell for us! He's not going to quit, and he's playing for his life. We've been through this adversity, been through it together! Haven't won shit! Have heard the laughs, the cheap shots! Now is our time! Right now!"
What happened at Falcon Field that night was as good as it gets for a football program that long has endured outrageous misfortune.
Carl Hayden ended its awful losing streak, beating San Luis by a score of 44-21.
Winning that one game allowed the team to rid itself of its longtime unwanted role as "The Little Team That Couldn't."
But the monumental victory alone does not an extraordinary story make. Carl Hayden Principal Steve Ybarra, an educator blessed with an open mind and a penchant for innovation, explains what does:
"In this community, at this school, athletics — at least not football — isn't a priority. Surviving is. The kids have too much going on to make it through a season in many cases. They have to go to work or do chores or take care of their little brothers and sisters or whatever.
It had it all. Congratulation to Paul Rubin. Your articles alone make me read Phoenix New Times. You are a Hit for that Paper.
Look forward to read from you - again...
You might have won San Luis one game, but come on you can not beat them in soccer. San luis is number one in soccer. Football is not known in san luis, it is not a big deal you have won one game to the weakest football team in AZ.
come on San Luis High School all always losing games. thehigh school is located in small poor community on the border of USA and Mexico. 100% of the population are hispanic were most work on the field or are illegals. They struggle every day to get enough money to eat, and football wasn't play there until five years ago when the high school was open. No ones know how to play football it isn't a big deal for them, as it is for this school that for just winning a game againstthis high school were no one knows how or have play football before high school. Come on get over it you are not the only school losing all games and just winning on game every 63 games. San luis high school only wins at maximum one game a year. And they don't make a big deal, because they know that they are more important thing in life than just a stupid football game that take five pages in newspaper.
Great story about a great man and his committment to kids. It is not always about wins and losses. It is about teaching young men about life and Dansby gets it. Men like him are not easily found. Far too many of these coaches are egotistical bastards who will chew kids up and spit them out to get a win. Most of them did not make it in their own quest and now want to live through the kids instead of for the kids. The simple thing is you can not bullshit the kids. If you care for them and show your love they will respond and play their heart out. All one has to do is look at the intensity on the field and you can usually tell if the players love and respect the coach.
Thank you for this artycle. My lil brother attends and Carl Hayden HS, and with regret to say that I'm part of the drop out stats from 2001. But I moved on to make a better person of myself.
It never really struck us to know the situations we lived in, untill reading the boldly stated words in your artycle.
It's great to know that everyone can see, we are not an ignorant race and can achieve what anyone else can, even if we have to work three times harder than everyone else, just to make it happen.
This story spoke to me on many levels. I am proud of what these young men are doing, and how thety are supportive. The circumstances of the entire CHHS community spoke to me through this story, and I have passed it to someone far away, but who is poised to come to the community and make a difference. Thank you, New Times.
it's high school football. who gives a shit. 99% will end up as used car salesmen or a circle k clerk or al bundy
And I'm sure you would turn it all around, right? I think the point of the story was that Carl Hayden even has a team, and that they try their hardest no matter what. I have no idea if the coach is a good one or a bad one, but he sounds like a decent enough guy and I loved what the players had to say. Great great story....
How can you give that head coach any credit, he has been with that school for how many years? and how many wins? what about the other squads, they HAVE WON GAMES. The coaches for the other squads are the ones who should get some credit, not this yahoo! Dansby should RESIGN!! and he should take nots from the other coaches on how to coach a squad!
Good article. I just wonder why race has to come up in every single article the New Times writes. I know that ever since Obama decided to run for office, it's been race, race, race, and race.
The players are "seemingly blind to skin color or ethnic origin." An example? They pitched in so another player would have enough money for a physical.
HUH? So the players don't "seem" racist, but they might be, and I'm just throwing this in there because they pitched in to help a teammate out. I JUST DON'T GET IT.
For a school entrenched in a crime-riddled community with a beleaguered outlook at best for most of these kids, a football program - even a losing one - can make the difference for these kids. It's nice to know they finally got that win. You have to feel for the coaches, though. Had to have been a tough haul. The biggest hero, though, is Principal Ybarra - I've seen a few news bits on him over the years, and he always manages to keep a positive perspective and unwavering support in these kids - knowing how necessary it is for schools to have programs that help kids reach beyond what is offered in their homes and neighborhood.
Great write-up & recognition. Kudos for seeing a sensational story doesn't have to have the sensationalized quality we've come to recognize as "news." Don't underestimate your readers - we do still like stories about real people.
Congratulations to the Carl Hayden players, fans and to Coach Dansby. Living proof that a winning record is not a reflection of character or heart. Coaches from other schools (like Cesar Chavez) should take note!
Greetings New Times: Many thanks to you and especially Paul Rubin for taking the time to recognize that one, single, solitary and possibly most important feat of triumph that some of these kids may ever experience. A single football win in some 67 attempts. Regardless of the turnout of the remaining games of the season, you guys at New Times granted them more than their (Warhol) alloted fifteen minutes of fame. What you've done for every one of these struggling young men goes far beyond the wrought iron and chain link confines that have become an unfortunate necessity for own their security. Your acknowledgment has touched their parents, their guardians and extended families, but beyond that it has reached even the local merchants and the general community, and in so doing has given us a small piece encouragement and hope in seeing some good come of this intentionally neglected area. In the grand and global scheme of worldly issues, Carl Hayden High and their Football Falcons have significance. In spite of their surroundings, Rubin's pen and ink will help carry them to the point of recognizing, they are important. Thanks again for noticing our community.
Sincerely, R.M. Pena,Carl Hayden, Class of '70
i know how hard it is.... i was on one those teams that was part of the losing streak.... keep ya head up falcons.....DAY BY DAY, WONT BE BEAT