December 3, 2022

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Friday night football returns as Los Almaitos routs Millikan

If there’s one word that best described the scene on the first Friday night of spring football in Southern California, it’s resolve.

Resolve by administrators to safely create an environment to allow teenagers and their parents the chance to enjoy sports competition again.

Resolve by coaches to prepare their players to tackle, block, catch, throw and score touchdowns again while resuming their most important assignment — teaching life lessons.

Resolve by players to never again take for granted any practice or game.

Resolve by parents to share a poignant moment with their sons and daughters to create a forever memory.

Resolve by sportswriters to not just report the final score but tell the stories of those who sacrificed and committed themselves to succeed on and off the field.

Life dramatically changed because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Friday night was the first giant step to starting anew. It was an opportunity to wipe away the past year of bitterness and anger and move beyond blame and recrimination.

At Los Alamitos High, the sounds of laughter could be heard in pregame warmups as players tried to sing along to the 1973 Elton John hit “Bennie and the Jets” blaring from the public address system.

The opening game against Long Beach Millikan produced occasional back-and-forth taunting, causing Los Alamitos linebacker Mason Burt to loudly warn his teammates in the second quarter, “If you get kicked out today, you won’t play next game against Corona del Mar.” The Griffins were called for 125 yards in penalties.

Los Alamitos opened a 32-0 halftime lead and cruised to a 59-0 victory. Sophomore quarterback Malachi Nelson passed for three touchdowns. Sophomore receiver Makai Lemon made an interception and caught a 93-yard touchdown pass before he was benched for a taunting penalty in the end zone.

It was a return to fun and games, but concerns haven’t vanished. Some worry about injuries from not being in top physical shape and a lack of weight training. Some are uncomfortable they can’t scream and yell from the bleachers without wearing a mask. Some are worried with such a short season, one positive test can ruin everything for the kids.

All the concerns are legitimate but can be dealt with. Pay attention to the wisdom of athletic trainers. Be considerate of those in the stands trying to keep their families safe. Be ready to improvise at a moment’s notice.

On Friday morning, La Habra learned its game against Mission Viejo had to be canceled because of a positive test for the Diablos. Within hours, La Habra agreed to send the buses to West Hills for a game against Chaminade. There was no time for a scouting report. Some players probably had never heard of Chaminade. The attitude was just find a way to play.

“This is for the kids,” La Habra coach Frank Mazzotta said.

Other games canceled included El Toro-Troy and Lakewood-St. Anthony. And Huntington Beach Ocean View coach Luis Nunez tested positive, forcing him to miss his team’s season opener.

At Los Alamitos, Millikan parents were allowed to sit in folding chairs in the end zone and Los Alamitos parents sat in the bleachers socially distanced. Masks were worn by everyone not playing.

Afterward, Burt said, “It’s very emotional being out here. It’s a surreal feeling. There was it’s happening, it’s not happening, it’s happening. We have to make the most of a six-game season. This is something I’m going to remember the rest of my life getting this opportunity.”

Los Alamitos defenders try to bring down Millikan running back Ajae Gravelly during Friday’s game.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)