The CIF Mud Bowl: Football ends season with a bang

For the first time in 19 years, the Varsity football team played in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) finals against Paso Robles High School on Dec. 7. Although the game ended in a 13-10 loss, meaning the Panthers are not moving on to regionals, the team was undefeated in the Camino league and won the league championship.

“It’s great that we were able to give ourselves that opportunity to play for a CIF championship even though it didn’t end the way we wanted it to,” said James Bonanno, senior and offensive lineman.

“They’ve worked so hard … they deserve all the victories and praise that they received,” added Sarah Whitwell, sophomore and athletic trainer for the team.

The team faced many obstacles along the way, including the injuries of numerous players during key points of the season.

“We’ve had to overcome playing games while having key players out because of injuries,” said Seth Evans, junior and offensive/defensive lineman. “From ACL’s to ankles to concussions, players were injured for important games, but we persevered and teammates stepped up when we needed it most.”

In addition to the challenges they faced during the season, the team was thrown off when they arrived at George Flamson Middle School and saw the muddy and wet natural-grass football field. The field became even more muddy as rain continued to fall during the first half of the game.

“Our team definitely played as a unit on Friday’s game, but the weather conditions one hundred percent affected the way we played. We still played hard as usual, but the outcome unfortunately wasn’t the one we wanted,” said Shane Sipes, junior and wide receiver.

Despite the three-hour drive, the Panther Pit made the trek to support their team.

“It was probably the best pit of the year because we cheered the whole game and everyone in the pit lost their voice,” said Connley Peterson, senior. The pit even led the stadium in the national anthem when the microphone died.

Spectators endured the muddy sidelines as they watched players slip and slide while running on and off of the field. “I do think they had to work twice as hard to run in the mud, especially since they weren’t used to it like the other team,” Whitwell said. “It wasn’t super awesome being covered in the mud, but seeing how excited and determined the boys were made us forget how dirty we were.”

Even after the tough loss, the team has high hopes for carrying on the CIF tradition and Sipes is hoping to have another shot at the CIF title next year.

“I think it is an amazing feeling to experience going to the CIF championship game as a junior.  I am motivated to put in a lot of work in the off season to get better and go to CIF again as a senior,” Sipes said.

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