The following column runs in the current edition of the Capistrano Dispatch.
By Tom Waszak
Would it be just another football game?
Few beyond campus thought we had much of a chance leading up our Trinity League opener against cross-town rival Santa Margarita Catholic High School.
Heading into the game, our varsity football program was 0-for-14 in league play.
But we had reason to be optimistic on Oct. 16.
Coach Jim Hartigan had led our Lions to an undefeated preseason. A few sportswriters even said this was our best team yet.
Could this be the night?
Before the game, hundreds of members of the JSerra community gathered for a tailgate party at Saddleback Community College. As we enjoyed barbecue, a few of us reflected upon JSerra’s journey – and how far we’ve come in seven short years.
It wasn’t too long ago when some wondered if JSerra could compete against the powerhouse teams in the Trinity League.
As we teach our students, the ingredients of success include perseverance, a positive attitude, character, and faith.
We are nationally recognized by the Catholic High School Honor Roll – a distinction we’ve earned for three consecutive years. More than 500 JSerra graduates are in college; some attend the nation’s most prestigious universities. Our students dedicate thousands of hours each year to community service at home – and abroad.
Community, sports and faith-based groups hold events regularly on our $110-million campus. And, despite the challenges of the ongoing recession, we’ve maintained enrollment without cutting important extracurricular activities.
As I looked around the parking lot, I saw a growing and robust group we call Lion Nation. There are thousands of us. Moms and dads. Kids and grandparents. Friends and neighbors. The JSerra community is a tight-knit collection of civic-minded people dedicated to God, family and community.
Although the kickoff was an hour away, I already felt a deep sense of victory. Don’t tell that to Coach Hartigan and the team. They put in hard work during the summer and preseason. These young scholar-athletes wanted to make a statement to the regional football world.
Their preparation and character showed. We got off to a quick start, scoring the first touchdown. The Eagles answered. We scored again. It was a thrilling game that came down to the wire.
Late in the fourth quarter, Santa Margarita scored a touchdown. A two-point conversion would tie the score.
Our defense broke up the play – and we secured our first Trinity League win. As the final seconds ticked away, some excited seniors doused Coach Hartigan with Gatorade. In a wonderful moment of spontaneous jubilation, the JSerra fans stormed the field to congratulate the players and celebrate the historic moment for our young school.
Sure, it was just a football game.
But it also symbolizes something much bigger.