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A Winning Attitude : Los Alamitos' Streak Mean the Griffins Don't Know What It's Like to Be Losers

November 15, 1994|CHRIS FOSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LOS ALAMITOS — It was an innocent question. A just-wondering-type of thing.

A Los Alamitos High cheerleader approached the pep squad adviser and asked: "Mrs. Trujillo, what do we do when we lose a football game?"

"It wasn't her fault, she had just never seen it happen," Judy Trujillo said.

Heck, even Trujillo had to think.

"I told her, we go out on the field and congratulate our players and the other team," she said. "We don't cry or sob. When we go home, we hit our heads on the wall. But not at the game."

It has been a long time between headaches.

Seniors have to dig deep into memories, back to those lowly freshman days. Juniors have yet to see one. Sophomores have only heard wild rumors that, indeed, the Griffins once lost a football game.

It has been 45 games without a loss, a high school lifetime. The school, community and, yes, even the players and coaches are quite aware of that. It would be impossible to ignore.

The effect has been positive and, at times, even a little silly.

Students are tuned in, fixated even, on events before, during and after each game. It transcends cliques. Yup, the metal-heads, skateboarders and surfers are on top of the situation.

People around town are keenly interested in the team. How are they doing? Who are they playing? How big will we win? Fans trickle in 1-1 1/2 hours before game time to get a good seat. And that's not only the players' parents.

Even the local airwaves are a buzz. Coach John Barnes has a show on local cable. It's on several times a week, first live, then on tape. It's Los Alamitos Television's most-watched production, more popular than even the games.

So what's more difficult than finding a Los Alamitos student who can remember the last defeat? Finding one who can't rattle off how many times the team has won since.

"You can't walk across campus without people telling you about the streak," wide receiver/defensive back Brad Melsby said. "On game day, I leave my house and drive up Los Alamitos Boulevard. All the way up, there are signs for the team. It's become a big event this year. When the streak is over, we know there will never be anything like it again."

But don't hold your breath. Neither the Griffins nor their fans are ready to call it a quits, not yet.

Said cheerleader McKenzie Commeau: "Every week, kids are asking, 'Is this game going to be 56-0? Or is it going to be close, like 43-30?' "

*

A streak has become The Streak this season.

Said Activities Director Jerry Halpin: "I went down to get a newspaper on a Saturday and overheard these guys in a barbershop. They were talking Los Alamitos football."

Ah, but who isn't?

Los Alamitos has always drawn well at football games, but the base has expanded the last three years. Approximately 10,000 turned out when the Griffins played host to Esperanza this season. And more than half were from Los Alamitos.

It's more than parental duty and student fervor.

"Our neighbors come to every game and none of them has a kid on the team," said Diane Atwood, who had one son on the team last season and another on it this season. "The community is wrapped up with this team. People who aren't connected with the school come to games."

And people who are connected get very involved. About 30 players' parents went to see Esperanza play Huntington Beach this season, just to check out the competition.

"I think everyone is feeling Griffin pride," Principal Carol Hart said.

Hart is feeling that pinch a little more than some.

She is fined for each Griffin victory by the local Rotary Club, whose meetings she attends every week. The Griffins went 14-0 last season and Hart had to dig deep.

"The team cost me a small fortune last year," Hart said.

It's worth it. Morale on the campus has never been higher, according to Hart. Student attendance at games has soared. Halpin estimated more than 1,100 students showed up for the Esperanza game, nearly half the student body.

He also sold 70 ASB cards five games into the season, once everyone discovered that a discount to all Sunset League games came with it.

And just try to find a newspaper the day after a game.

"If you don't have one by 7 a.m., forget it," Halpin said.

Said Commeau: "Everyone buys a paper and shows the game story to the players. It's a big deal."

So big that a new on-campus club was formed: "Griffin Chicks of '96." As politically incorrect as it sounds, it was a group of junior girls who came up with the name. They even had sweat shirts made.

They are the ones responsible for the posters along Los Alamitos Boulevard. They get up at 5 a.m. on game days to get the message out.

Their purpose? To give support to the school's large, extensively choreographed cheerleading squad, improve student support at games and, oh yes, to yell.

Actually yelling is at the top of the list.

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