Oceanside High School is the gold standard of high school football in San Diego County.
"This is Title Town U.S.A., and we're not afraid to say it," boasts Oceanside High School head football coach David Rodriguez.
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The Pirates' 17 CIF championships are the most in San Diego -- its history is filled with legendary players, and the team is a big part of the community's identity. So much so that in Oceanside, the importance of getting back to playing football games stretches far beyond the field.
"I always think of Oceanside as a slice of west Texas on the California coast because there are so many folk's identities that are tied to Oceanside High, and we are talking generations deep," Rodriguez said. "It's more than just football. It's family for everybody."
Oceanside defensive end Simi Makihele agreed, adding that if COVID had forced the season to be canceled, it would not have been good for Oceanside.
"A lot of people were depending on us having a season, watching us, so not being able to play would've been very disappointing to the city in total," Makihele said
The importance of having a season has also had an impact on the students' academics and engagement. Rodriguez calls it "the carrot of athletics." He said that as the possibility of a season increased, he noticed a change among student athletes.
"We did see a spike in energy, not only out here on the field but inside the virtual classrooms," Rodriguez said.
From academics to student engagement to the community, high school football’s return means so much in Oceanside that the players don’t mind that it’s a super short season, with just five games.
"Whether it's five games or one game, we don't care," said quarterback Jakob Harris, who is a senior. "We just want to get out on the field. It makes it 10 times ... 100 times more meaningful to be out there right now."
And exactly what parts of playing in a football game are the Pirates most looking forward to? Players said things like "catching a pass," "getting in the huddle with my teammates," "the bus ride" and "getting my first sack."
But Makihele cut straight to the chase when he said, "Being able to hit someone again is very exciting!"
Spoken like a true football player -- a true Oceanside football player.
The Friday night lights finally come back on the night of March 12, when Oceanside plays at La Jolla.