Please forget, just for one fall Saturday afternoon, the ceremonies on the field at the corner of Arlington and Horace were for the students at the California School for the Deaf--Riverside.
Ignore the sometimes eerie silence of hundreds of people sitting in the stands, not screaming, not clapping, not moving with music from a band. Look only at the homecoming queen in her smooth black dress, at the king with the sash across his football jersey, at the young girls sitting in the stands, longing to one day wear that crown.
The game last weekend was, if viewed as the participants wish, simply CSDR against Sherman Indian. An Arrowhead League matchup. Homecoming.
The feeling before the game, across refreshment tables, between the parents selling red T-shirts with "CSDR Cubs" across the front, was one of guarded optimism.
The Cubs have not won all season, haven't really been close.
"We got a chance today," one parent says, "but we're very young. Only five seniors."
The team, all 31 players, views the game and the season as anything but transitional. All but a few of the 200 students at CSDR are there. They sign back and forth about the volleyball team's three-set victory earlier in the day over those same Braves.
Maybe the football team will do the same . . . a clean sweep.
First Quarter: Sherman Indian 16, CSDR 0
The Cubs bear the mark of Coach Ken Maraj. Last season, his first as coach, he took CSDR to the Southern Section playoffs with an experienced team and the motto:\o7 No different.\f7
"I don't want my players believing they are different than any of the teams they play," said Maraj, who is not deaf. "The first thing I did when I got here was to get rid of anything that made them appear different from other schools."
The drum was gone, replaced by a quarterback nudge.
Most deaf football teams, such as CSDR's sister school in Fremont, rely on the vibrations of a drum on the sidelines, instead of a snap count. The boom, the snap and the line fires off the ball.
But Maraj said the drum was "a dead giveaway" to opposing defenses.
"They knew when the snap was, so they could get off the ball just as fast," he said. "This way now we at least have them guessing."
It was risky. Maraj is asking his offensive linemen to look at the ball to see when it is snapped instead of looking at the man they are assigned to block. At times against Sherman Indian, when the tackle looked back at the defensive end, the quarterback was running for his life.
But even with the occasional breakdowns in pass protection, Maraj is sticking with one theory--\o7 It is imperative in his players' world that they see no difference.\f7
It is just as important to everyone at CSDR that the school compete at the same level and with the same rules as hearing schools.
"We have never asked for any exceptions from CIF," CSDR Superintendent Ken Randall said. "We want to beat them by the rules. We don't want any excuses."
The school also competes in basketball and wrestling, but football is the coaches' and players' greatest test.
Against Sherman Indian there were occasional late hits, times when a Cub could not stop at the whistle he couldn't hear. But for the most part, CSDR simply makes typical football mistakes. Too many clipping penalties, fumbles, players not sure if they are on the punt team or kickoff return unit.
But that's high school football. And perhaps the mistakes put CSDR closer to where it wants to be, with every other school.
Halftime: Sherman Indian 16, CSDR 0
Langston Adams looks like the type of player who, if he could speak, would talk a lot of trash. He would get in the faces of defenders, or tell opposing quarterbacks the damage he was about to inflict. You can see that in his strut, in the stern swiftness of his signing.
"He's competitive," his father Lyle said. "Always been that way."
At halftime against Sherman Indian, an official warned Adams, who plays linebacker, running back and alternates at quarterback, about hitting opposing players in the helmet. After the game, he scuffled with a Sherman Indian running back and had to be restrained.
Adams, a senior who has been deaf since spinal meningitis took his hearing at 11 months, is like many of the athletes at CSDR. For every great play he makes, a bad one is sure to follow. But it is not entirely his or his coach's fault.
"Most or all of the kids on the team have never played football or even been part of a team," Maraj said. "We are teaching them the absolute basics."
Nineteen of CSDR's players did not play at all before this year, and only seven have played more than one season.
"Most of the kids do not play any sort of organized athletics until they get to high school," said Zibby Bayarsky, CSDR parents coordinator. "It is difficult to find coaches in any sport at the youth level who will put forth the time and patience for a deaf child to be on their team. That means a parent has to be at every practice and every game to help translate. That is a difficult thing to do."