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December 6, 2005 > Champions in our hearts

Champions in our hearts

by Jim Sigafoose

Throughout this marvelous season for the Irvington High football team, the key has been not only the potent Vikings offense, but the team's chemistry as well. In the North Coast Section 3-A East Bay Championship game at McAfee Coliseum on Saturday, it was the Viking defense that came up big... but the Las Lomas team defense came up just a bit bigger. Despite holding their opponents scoreless in the second half, the Vikings' bid for the championship came up short in a 21-14 loss.

The Knights of Las Lomas struck first, scoring a touchdown on their opening drive. When Irvington responded on its second possession to tie the game at 7-7 on a J.T. Ramos-to-Tyler Broom 12-yard pass, it looked like it was going to be another exciting Viking game with lots of scoring and a close finish. However the powerful Irvington offense was held in check for most of the rest of the game.

Las Lomas scored another touchdown in the second quarter, and in what was ultimately the turning point of the game, the Knights scored again on a 45-yard pass play near the end of the first half to take a 21-7 halftime lead.

The Irvington defense did its job in the second half preventing Las Lomas from scoring, with defensive lineman Chris McIver making several key tackles. When quarterback Ramos hit Steve Randolph for a 5-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter, the Vikings made it 21-14. With a bit over 4 minutes to go in the game, the crowd anticipated another heart-stopping finish.

Irvington got the ball back one more time, deep in their own territory, but time was running out on the Vikings. With the crowd cheering them on, the Vikings managed a couple of first downs on their final drive, but a last-second desperation pass fell incomplete.

While Las Lomas was celebrating their victory, the crowd on the Irvington side was just as appreciative of the Vikings' wonderful season. "They are champions in our hearts," said one excited fan.

Although the team ultimately lost, they do not consider themselves losers. "I think me and the other guys would be satisfied even if we lost. We beat Washington, ended Logan's streak and won the first playoff game in the history of the school," said Ramos the day before the game.

The team has worked hard all season. "My typical day is waking up at 6 a.m. I am in classes until 3:30, and then I practice until 5 p.m. When I get home, I spend a lot of time with my family and my weekends with friends," said Ramos who aspires to become a 49er one day. "Over summer we do a lot of weight lifting to condition and strengthen muscles so when we practice we are in good condition."

This dedicated team of what Coach Bob Spain describes as "phenomenal athletes," will continue to move ahead, despite the hit they will take when they lose senior running back Stephen Lee. Spain sees the results of hard work over the past years stating that "the scouts are coming around here more than they have in the past."

The outstanding coaching of Spain and offensive coordinator Tom Casassa has certainly been crucial to the success of this breakout season. "Coach Spain and Casassa are great. They come out here and dedicate their time. Not only do they teach us about football, they teach us about life. They are just two really great guys," said Ramos.

Victory or defeat, the Vikings know that winning isn't just about a football game; it's about camaraderie. "The night before a game we have a pasta night that is held at different player's homes. After we eat, we gather round to 'pass the ball,' which is a time to talk about things. We become a big family and talk about the game or a problem at home. Nothing leaves the circle," Ramos confided.

"It's been a great ride - there is no losing. If we win, hey great but if not, we will look back at what we've done," said Spain before the game.

Next season holds promise with a talented group of offensive players returning as well as younger players coming up the ranks. Of course the fans will be there every step of the way.

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