Los Angeles Baptist High football players are proving that nice guys really do finish last.
After watching the Knights lose their fourth straight game, a parent tried to comfort Coach Rick Hayes by saying, "You know, you really have a nice team."
Hayes shook his head and replied, "I know. That's the problem. They're too nice."
It seems that the defensive line doesn't like to hit. In a game two weeks ago, only one tackle was made among three starting linemen.
L.A. Baptist has yet to record a sack, and Hayes is sick of it.
"Kids at most schools want to go out and knock someone over," Hayes said. "They come out and say, 'Please, can I knock someone over.' "
Hayes said that his players don't have the knack for knocking down opponents.
"They need to be mentally tougher," he said, emphatically.
If they aren't tough, the Knights are at least fit. Nine linemen bench press more than 300 pounds.
But when they are on the field, the Knights aren't pressing offensive linemen hard enough to muss up their hair. The team has allowed 107 points in four games.
"Our defensive linemen are pretty nice," running back Mark MacArthur said. "In fact, they're very nice."
The offense hasn't been exactly nasty, either. The Knights have scored 15 points.
There are advantages to the nice-guy approach. The defense has been flagged only three times for penalties. Two have been five-yarders for grabbing a face mask incidentally, which means tugging gently rather than yanking viciously.
The other penalty, a personal foul by lineman Greg Benedick, was out of character for the Knights.
Benedick leads with 10 tackles and is about the meanest player on the team, according to Hayes.
"We can be as mean as the next team," Benedick said. "We just haven't shown it yet."
Hayes hopes they develop a mean streak, and he has taken steps to elicit some fierceness. Most notably, linemen are now forced to hit practice sleds with more frequency.
"He's making us go through a lot more hitting drills than before," linebacker Glenn Hazlett said. "We're learning to enjoy it."
But it remains to be seen whether the Knights will start enjoying hitting opponents. MacArthur, for one, speaks of his teammates on the defensive platoon as if they were men from the moon.
"When they hit someone, they yell and jump around and act really proud," MacArthur said. "But their intensity level lasts for about one minute. Everyone likes the defensive players. They try to be mean, but it's not in them."
In one way, Hayes thinks his players keep the game in its proper perspective.
"They play football because it's fun," Hayes said. "They're not out to hurt anyone."