Editor's note: Last Friday night, after this story was completed and laid out in New Times, the Carl Hayden football team finally won a game. Writer Paul Rubin and photographer Timothy Archibald were there to witness the celebration.
That something wonderful was about to happen became apparent to Carl Hayden High's players with two minutes to go in the Falcons' game against Camelback High.
"We're gonna do it," junior Sal Miramontes shouted to no one in particular. "At last! At last!"
School principal Kino Flores danced on the sidelines with assistant principal and athletic director Moody Jackson.
Juniors Omar Robles and Ed Hernandez jumped up and down for joy.
First-year player and senior James Juniel--the most skilled player on the team--wore a grin as wide as a football field.
For senior players Chris Rios and Roy Moody, what was happening was almost too much to bear. They stared blankly at the game clock, trying to will it to move faster, faster. The pair hadn't been on the winning side in a football game since October 1991. Coach Gary Somo gripped a folder, the moment of his first win ever as a head coach finally at hand. Though a victory over any team would have suited Somo just fine, beating a school he had taught and coached at for years was particularly sweet.
The win was coming on an appropriate occasion. Last Friday was homecoming night for Carl Hayden High School.
The final score was Carl Hayden 30, Camelback 14.
The players didn't know what to do at first. A few of them dumped water from a large jug onto Somo. Several of the parents in attendance joined their celebrating sons on the field. The cheerleaders stood and cried.
Somehow, Somo organized his players into a line for the postgame handshake with the stunned Camelback squad. As soon as that was done, the Falcon players, all 21 of them who were in uniform, sprinted to their locker room.
It was there that the magnitude of what they had just accomplished seemed to hit each Carl Hayden player. The celebration that followed was as unbridled and as heartfelt as that of any state-championship team.
At once, everyone was hugging, yelling, laughing, crying.
Senior Jonas Johnson, one of his ankles swollen to twice its normal size, hobbled to the chalkboard in front of the lockers. He scribbled an answer to the words Coach Somo had been repeating all season: "WE BELIEVED! AND WE ACHIEVED!"
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Somo finally made his way into the locker room. The entire team rushed toward him in a collective embrace. Somo retired briefly to the coaches' room to change his water-soaked clothes. He and the other coaches were ecstatic, mostly for the kids, but for themselves, too. It had been a long, long time coming.
"I hope they remember what you told them, coach," said defensive coach Eric Gastelum. "This win is for them, not for no one else but them. Maybe this will shut up those jerks who booed them at the assembly. Maybe this will make everyone realize some things."
Somo walked out of his little room to address his team.
"This is the first of many, men," he said, to a loud cheer. "I think we're doing things the right way here, though it's been a real tough road for all of us. We make you go to classes, make you turn in grades every week, make you work harder than what you've been used to. But we don't have anyone of questionable character on this team. We have winners! Now, go to your homecoming dance and enjoy yourselves, and don't get into any trouble." Then, Roy Moody, the heart and soul of the Carl Hayden team, approached Somo and whispered something to him. "Roy has something to say to you guys," the coach announced.
Everyone hushed instantly, and moved forward to hear what Moody had to say. The running back was in tears, as he had been after so many games. The Camelback game had been the senior's finest game of the year. He had run for 115 tough yards, much of them on the strength of his own determination.
"It's been so long since we won, but we've all stuck together," Moody said, his voice choking, barely above a whisper. "I just want to tell you guys, I love every one of you.