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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Gauchos got the stuff

The announcement of Frank Milo's retirement at the end of this school
year got me to thinking about my son's senior year on the Gauchos football
team under Coach Frank Milo. They had reached the championship game in the
North Coast division; it was the first time since 1984. Now remember the
Gauchos are the only team that has beaten the infamous DeLaSalle team in
fifteen years during a regular season (apparently Pittsburgh beat them in the
playoffs one year). In 1989, under Coach Milo, the Gauchos beat the Spartans
14-13. The Gauchos are a small team because El Cerrito High School can't
recruit; it's an inner city school, with a good football coach, Frank Milo.
It's a school where everyone makes the most with what they've got.

The Gauchos were facing Miramonte (Orinda). The final game was held at
Diablo Valley Community College. It was November, 1998. When we got there it
was raining, then the rain turned into driving sheets. The Miramonte fans
were housed on the home side of the stadium. The ECHS fans were on the
visitor's side, little more than temporary bleachers, exposed to the driving
rain. That didn't help our mood. Coach Milo and Coach Austin had taken their
positions on the field.

When the Miramonte boys came out I was knocked for a loop. They scared
me. Sixty boys all wearing satin Lycra football jerseys with matching rain
gear. Us El Cerrito parents were out there watching our sons face a team with
60 players, our team had maybe thirty-five players. Scared, I instinctively
ran out into the field. Coach Austin came up to me. "Is everything okay? " I
said worriedly. "Our boys can do it," he said. "They have the stuff." I
went back into the stands sort of appeased. This even though our leading
rusher, Terrell Roberts, was injured, as were others from our first string.
The Miramonte team had a second string and a third string. We had our first
string and half of a second string. Coach Austin was right, though. These
kids who come out of these inner city schools are great. They are made of
hardy stuff honed from valuable life lessons and exposure to the real world.

Our boys had held the Miramonte devils off for an entire half. The
score, at the end of the half was one goal and some change to zip favoring
Miramonte. The rain was coming down harder and harder. It was after the
half. One of our dads got in a fight with a kid in the stands; it looked like
it could come to blows. Several of us intervened. His kid was out there in
the driving rain, fighting a losing battle. But I had an ulterior motive for
intervening. I still hoped our boys would make one goal and I knew a fight in
the stands would distract them. I really didn't care about anyone in the
stands. I cared about our boys.

Then our parents started turning against the coach. The frustration was
mounting. Our boys were winners. They had won most of their games that
season. The parents started shouting at the coach and at each other. The
rain and wind were so loud, however, that the parents couldn't be heard on
the field. We were shouting at the wind. When the game was over 44-0 our
boys left the field. Many were crying. So many teenage boys with tears
streaming down their face. How could the El Cerrito High School team get so
far and lose so big?

I think about that game with awe. The lessons were incredible; the
bravery of the players. How they kept going against all odds. How they really
cared. They kept making tackles to the very end. I was never more proud of
the ECHS football team than at that moment. Out of loss comes gain.

Not too long ago I was in the El Cerrito High School gym and I saw the
second place North Coast Section pennant from 1998. I was proud. I know what
went into that pennant. It is a pennant among many in the El Cerrito High
School Gym.

Rebecca Hazlewood

Run dates: 2001-12-30 - 2002-01-14

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