Stat sheets and standings boxes can measure how many points a team scored or how many games they’ve won and lost, but they can’t measure the value of those things. That much was obvious last Friday night at the Cabrillo Lynwood football game, which the Jaguars won 26-12 to secure their first win in 694 days, and their first win in their home stadium in 1,072 days.
A lot has happened since those last victories, to the world of course but also to the Cabrillo football program. Head coach Shane Gonzales was hired early in the COVID-19 pandemic, and held his position for several weeks before he was allowed to “meet” his team virtually. When he did, only a handful of players showed up for the Zoom meeting.
Gonzales worked and struggled to build his program from the ground up, a difficult thing to do during a pandemic. The Jaguars only had 15-20 players available to play during the Spring season of 2021, and ended up not able to field a team, making the only team in Long Beach who sat on the sidelines.
It was a hard time for Gonzales, and his team. The coach was eager to have success in his first head job, but also to give his seniors some kind of last season. He found himself a far cry from where he’d been, coaching at Mayfair with elite players like Chris Adimora, a high school star now at Texas.
But Gonzales didn’t give up, the players in the program didn’t give up, and the Cabrillo administration didn’t give up either. They came back this season determined to get on the field, and they did, with three losses to start the season. Even those losses felt like wins given that the team was playing, there were fans and students in the stands, and the marching band and cheerleaders were performing at halftime.
But there’s a big difference between a loss that feels like a win, and a win. The Jaguars know that for sure after Friday night’s win over Lynwood, which was celebrated for a good twenty minutes by the players while Gonzales smiled and said, “You’d think they won the Super Bowl.”
Having seen football played at a CIF-SS championship level, Gonzales knew what success felt like.
“I told the guys, you deserve a win,” he said. “I told them all week how great it’s going to feel. They didn’t know how good it would feel because a lot of them have never experienced a win in football, or success in sports. We have guys playing their first organized sports, freshmen playing the game for the first time. And they got to taste success tonight–I’m happy for the boys.”
Different wins mean different things. There are teams in the Moore League who don’t particularly notice or celebrate league wins, for example–Long Beach Poly has only lost two league games since 1995. There are teams who will win CIF-SS championships, teams that will win NCAA Bowl Games, and one team this year that will, yes, win the Super Bowl.
The Cabrillo Jaguars might be a ways away from competing at an elite level, but that’s not what Friday’s endless celebration was about. Friday was about enjoying progress and work, even when success wasn’t guaranteed. It was a powerful reminder that not all wins mean the same thing, and an emotional scene watching a team who understood that.