Football season cut short by lack of healthy players

November 18, 2021 — by Jonny Luo and Nikhil Mathihalli
Photo by Atrey Desai
The football team practices at the field on Oct. 21
The team hopes returning players and a strong incoming freshmen class will bolster the program.

After an exhilarating 31-14 Homecoming win over Monta Vista on Sept. 24, the football team hoped to turn their season around. Instead, they never won again, ending the 1-4 in league and 1-8 overall. They finished in sixth place in the El Camino league. 

As the season wore on, the Falcons fell victim to a string of injuries, exacerbating their already small roster size of only 25 players to start the year. Nevertheless, no JV players were brought up to varsity to fill vacant positions. 

 The season ended on a historically rough note with three forfeits: the first one against Los Altos on Oct. 14, Cupertino High on Oct. 29 — which marked their senior night game — and Fremont High on Nov. 5.

Sophomore quarterback Shane Timmons was disappointed to see the team end this season that way.

“It was just really sad,” Timmons said. “We put in a lot of work during June and July [for conditioning], and not being able to play those three games was devastating.” 

Over the season, the team lost ten players to injuries: five concussions, four shoulder injuries and a broken leg. “Not being able to substitute players was playing a dramatic role in our performances,” co-captain Parsa Hashemi said. “Players were playing tired, and playing tired against fresh players led to injuries. It was inevitable that our season turned out as it did.”

For Hashemi, the devastating loss this year was an aberration from previous years, where the team made it to the CCS quarterfinals in 2019.

“The varsity team was always pretty strong in past years,” Hashemi said. “Before COVID-19, I’d say we had one of the greatest Saratoga football teams, and it was disappointing to see that we couldn’t carry on that tradition.” 

However, the team has been struggling with low participation for years, a trend that has been exacerbated by the loss of four to five athletes who transferred to Los Gatos High for the more social and less academically pressuring environment, according to Hashemi. 

This year’s football season was also different from previous years because of the COVID-19 pandemic — some athletes decided to play different fall sports or drop sports entirely due to safety concerns. 

To lower injury rates and increase accessibility of the sport, this year football coach Tim Lugo coordinated with the league to shorten quarter lengths to five minutes because athletes were coming out of an unconventional COVID-19 season. According to principal Greg Louie, this was “just to make sure athletes did have games to play.”

Louie also mentioned that next year, the league may also decide to go from 11-man tackle football to smaller variants, such as 7-or 8-man tackle football, although nothing has been finalized. According to junior running back and wide receiver Paolo Navarro, other schools in the area, such as Monta Vista, have also been struggling with low football numbers.

“[The future of the football team] is all ultimately going to depend upon who comes out to play football next season,” Louie said. “If we get a strong freshman class, we’ll be able to build up the program over time.”

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