RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) - The California School for the Deaf - Riverside high school football season ended in unfamiliar territory for the Cubs on Saturday evening, as they lost their first game of the season, 74-22.
Despite the loss, both the coaching staff and players wanted to reassure their newfound fans that this season overall was a victory for not only CSDR, but for the deaf community worldwide.
The school found themselves as the subject of headlines around the United States on the back of an unprecedented season, earning a berth in the Championship game for the first time in their 68-year history as a school.
The team gained such popularity over recent weeks, that the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) was forced to move the game from CSDR to John W. North High School to fit the ever-growing crowds.
Junior tight end and defensive lineman Christian Jimenez wanted to remind people that there's more to the Cubs than just wins and losses:
"I just appreciate all of your support, thank you for believing in us. We hope you realize that we can play, as deaf people we can do anything except hear. Keep an open mind. Don't look at us as disabled people. We can play football… we can play the game."
A win for the deaf community, and a lot more to be proud of for Jimenez and the rest of the Cubs roster that rewrote history both on and off the football field all season long.
Heading into the game, CSDR was 12-0 and averaging 62 points a game. They often steamrolled opponents, despite not being able to rely on auditory senses.
Rather, the team communicated with hand signals and body language. While some may view this as a disadvantage, the Cubs saw it as the opposite.
Instead of relying on smack talk to get in the head of their rivals, they let their play do the talking.
This season was no small task for the Cubs, who hadn't had a winning season since 2011. Jimenez isn't disappointed in the performance, but he's ready to get back on track for next year:
"We're gonna play harder, we're gonna weight lift more, we're gonna condition more and we're gonna be more prepared next year. ...We're here at the championship game, we made history - in 68 years that has never happened. To be here at the championship game with my brothers, that was an inspiration itself. But, this is unfinished business for next year."
While CSDR may not have emerged victorious from this title game, the Cubs are still eligible for the CIF State Playoffs, a decision that will be made on Sunday when officials meet to determine who will play for the regional championship games.
For Head Coach Keith Adams, proud is an understatement:
"I'm very proud of them. They've all played a great season this year. They put CSDR on the map and they've had numerous records."
Regardless of CIF's decision, the future looks bright for CSDR -- of the 23 players on their roster, 21 are eligible to return next season, as just two of the members are seniors due to graduate.
Their opponent, the Faith Baptist Contenders, stormed to a massive 28-0 victory heading into the second quarter. The Cubs answered back with 22 straight points - but that would be the end of their scoring for the game.
The Contenders closed out the first half with 22 points of their own, heading into halftime with a 50-22 lead.
They scored 24 more points in the second half, cementing their Division Championship.
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