DOWNEY – “Whoever wants it the most will win.” That’s Tom Houts, Principal of Downey High School speaking.
“I haven’t seen Warren play, so I can’t say anything about them. But whoever wins,” he said, “it won’t be an upset.”
Is this a grudge match, or a love fest? It’s Spirit Week, the days preceding the Big Game, the intra-city rivalry, Downey versus Warren. But instead of dividing the city, the game has always unified it.
The teams and the schools show such respect for each other, that it’s the talk of the country. And it’s the Rotary Club of Downey’s pleasure each year to invite representatives of both schools to have luncheon with us and share the excitement.
Not to say that there aren’t animated feelings within the club. Bill Kirkwood sported a deep crimson sport coat (that’s the Downey Vikings, crimson and white), and brought with him a guest who actually played for Downey High in 1960. And Downey beat Warren that year.
Walking farther into the room toward the buffet table, once might encounter a table all in navy blue (that’s navy and gold for the Warren Bears), and someone in maroon, like Larry Garces, might be told to sit on the other side of the room.
There’s even contention on the staff of the Hubbub. Dan Fox has his own Warren letter jacket, and this reporter wears her son Jeff’s from his sophomore year in 1975 at Downey High.
“It’s a huge, huge deal,” said Dr. John Garcia, “to be Superintendent of the School District where I grew up, and where I played for my school in the game.”
“I love the excitement, the energy of Spirit Week,” Dr. John went on. “It’s going to be a fantastic game. There are only so many seats in the stadium, so get there about 4:30 in the afternoon to get in line.”
As Dr. John remembered it, “During the game you see the line of people standing outside, watching through the fence.”
“I can recall my last game I played exactly,” he said. “We scored two touchdowns but lost by two points, a two-point after touchdown conversion.”
“This will be my 30th game,” Principal Houts said. “I started at Warren. And now I’m at Downey. It’s something else, the way the game is sold out. And the band music is really great to listen to.”
The coach of the Vikings, Jack Williams, then came to the podium and introduced members of the varsity team, and assistant coaches.
“We’re really excited,” said Laura Rivas, Principal at Warren, as she pumped her fists. “We’ve been excited all week. Go Bears!”
She then introduced the football coach, Raul Lara, who called on his varsity players to stand.
Some of the team were still relatively small, on a high school-age scale; some looked big. Most flashed a V for Victory sign.
“We look forward to overcoming adversity,” said Lara.
“Last week, something happened,” said Dr. John, “that has never happened in the history of high school football in Southern California. They postponed the football matches.”
Cause? It was lightning strikes, this reporter recalls. Football teams play in rain and mud and cold or heat. But lightning? When Mother Nature puts on her own show, there are rules in place. Shutting down to protect the players on the field and the spectators in the stands is one of them. No appeals.
“Downey was to play Lynwood,” said Dr. John. “St. John Bosco versus Mater Dei. All postponed. But now we have the game, and it has its own electricity.”
Showing the healthy balance in the School District between sports and curriculum and social responsibility, each school next introduced their All Student Body officers. The Viking leaders, coincidentally all girls and dressed in crimson tee shirts with their office printed on the sleeve in white, introduced themselves, then stood by as the cheerleaders performed.
Wearing short white tunics piped in crimson with a crimson megaphone emblem on the chest and big crimson bows in their hair, the award-winning squad exhorted the team to “Go Vikings Go.”
Warren All Student Body officers were up next, and each gave a short speech, showing the poise that marks the effective public speaker.
“School spirit means so many things,” their president said.
Warren showed a short film, “Spirit Week,” which showed the different activities that take place each day at school to build up momentum during the week. Backwards Day, Costume, and Adventure-themed Days, charge the atmosphere.
“It’s duck hunting season” one banner exclaimed, amid pink powder explosions, referring to the derogatory name the Bears have for the Vikings. You don’t have to be a teenager to understand.
The girls of the cheer squad, with their boy leader, made it easy for us. “W-A-R-R-E-N,” they spelled out, with emphatic thrusts of their gold pompoms with each letter.
Wearing the same white tunics, with a capital W logo on the chest in navy and gold, their smiles were enough to almost sway the Downey supporters.
Dr. John closed with a personal touch, urging the students to “take a couple of minutes to know that you are in a special place and time. And School District. It will never come again.”