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‘This season was not an asterisk, it saved lives,’ Chaminade coach Ed Croson said

Don’t roll your eyes. Instead, read. Because I’m going to explain why this spring’s abbreviated high school football season means a lot more than a handful of games with no playoffs or championships.

The same fans, parents, coaches and Twitter trolls that were pounding the table to let the kids play, are sticking their nose in the air after league champions were crowned this spring. It’s the same weak spirit that suggests the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2020 NBA championship won in the bubble should be marked with an asterisk, though LeBron James said it was the hardest title he’s ever won because of COVID-19 and the unprecedented challenges it brought.

Should UCLA’s Final Four men’s basketball run be noted with an asterisk too? I dare anyone to say that to coach Mick Cronin.

“This season was not an asterisk, it saved lives,” said Chaminade football coach Ed Croson, who led his team to a share of the Mission League crown. “People who want to write it off weren’t there. The coaches, players and parents were there. If you want to put anything next to the year, put the number ‘2,’ because it was double the difficulty.”

No high school sport is more woven into the fabric of the community than football.

No illustration of that was more apparent than Friday night’s game between Saugus (5-0) and Valencia (4-1). Behind the Saugus stands were flocks of students and fans that somehow snuck onto a hillside that oversees Valencia’s home field. Many stood and cheered the entire game. Some set up chairs. It was the image of a suffering community that knew something special was on the line: a Foothill League title.

People watch the Valencia-Saugus game from a hill, Friday, April 16, 2021, at Valencia High School. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker, Contributing Photographer)

Saugus quarterback Colton Fitzgerald threw three touchdowns to lead the Centurions to a 21-7 win over Valencia, claiming the program’s first outright league title since 2008. When the game clock hit zeros, that hillside began to move and make noise. The #SaugusStrong energy was felt.

“This community is as close to a small Texas town feel as it gets,” Saugus coach Jason Bornn said.

The Saugus school community has experienced a deadly school shooting and a worldwide pandemic in the past 17 months. Friday night’s winner-takes-all showdown had a ton of meaning, even more so because of the adversity both programs had shown to get there.

“It’s tough being a teenager as it is nowadays,” Bornn said. “What we accomplished under the circumstances is remarkable.”

Fitzgerald was in tears after the win, filled with emotion about his last high school football game ending with such a great accomplishment.

“When I look back on my senior year, there will be so many negative things to remember, but that’s not what I’ll think about now,” the senior said. “I’ll remember this moment forever.”