By Jacob Wilson
Garden Grove Journal
10 weeks. 10 games. 10 wins.
One very big loss.
It was 10 weeks ago that the Garden Grove Argonauts began their quest for a perfect 10-0 season. It was also 10 weeks ago that the Argonaut football team, Garden Grove High School, and most importantly the Telles family lost 17-year-old Kevin Telles.
In football 10 weeks is a long time. It’s an entire season at the high school level and a lot changes. Teams rise and fall, players go hot and cold, and no one is quite the same when it’s over.
But in reality, it’s less than two and a half months. Less than a season and less than a semester. And when you’re grieving, time has an uncanny way of both stopping and moving too fast.
It stops because it’s hard to let other things matter again. It’s hard to care about bills or homework or sometimes anything at all. It moves too fast because each new day is a day further away from the last time you saw your loved one and you want to hold on to that last moment as if it just happened.
Sooner or later though, you realize two things. Life keeps going, with or without you, and it goes on one day at a time. You have no choice but to go with it.
One day at a time might be a cliché, but it’s a good way to get through tough times. It’s also a good philosophy for sports. It’s an idea that Garden Grove head coach Joe Hay brought to the Argonauts.
The goal before the season even started was to go 10-0. And even then it was in part for Telles. He reminded his fellow seniors that they went 10-0 as freshmen.
Wouldn’t it be great to do it as seniors he would say.
But after Sept. 11; no, the night of Sept. 11, in a hospital parking lot in Huntington Beach, the goal turned into a promise.
But though 10-0 was the big target, Hay managed, somehow, to get the team to forget about the zeros for a while and just think about one. One play at a time, one game at a time, and each week it became one win at a time.
“We take it one play at a time and we don’t overlook our opponent,” Argonaut quarterback Sean Young said. “We know 45 (Telles’s uniform number) wouldn’t take plays off so we don’t take plays off. For him.”
Before you know it the Argonauts are 5-0 with a win over Orange League tri-champion Santa Ana Valley and a 35-point win over Orange Coast League champion Laguna Beach.
Then league play starts and it’s on to Garden Grove’s oldest rival. Few outside Rancho Alamitos’s campus gave the Vaqueros much of a chance, but everyone wanted to see what Mike Frank would do. Not much apparently.
Orange County’s leading passer didn’t last a half and the Argonauts made it 6-0.
At this point Garden Grove’s next three opponents had combined for one win. Its fourth opponent, two-time league champion Santiago, had one loss.
Everyone penciled in three more wins for the Argonauts, circled the Santiago game and spent the next four weeks on other things.
Everyone except the Argonauts. They kept preparing for one game at a time and they kept winning games one play at a time.
“At the end of each practice we take our helmets off and look at the back and look at the sticker and it just reminds us of why we’re playing and who we’re playing for,” Hay said.
They didn’t think about Santiago until it was time to think about Santiago.
And they still kept thinking about only one win. They knew that one would equal 10, but there was no need to talk about it. Just as this next game didn’t matter until after the ninth game was over, the other nine games no longer mattered now that this game was in sight.
“There wasn’t a lot that was said at practice,” Hay said. “Everybody knew.”
The Argonauts didn’t dominate Santiago the way they did most teams, but they controlled the game the entire way. They jumped out to an early lead and no matter how hard the Cavaliers fought, and they fought hard, the Argonauts wouldn’t let them back in.
A couple minutes before the game was officially over, but with the game long decided, a banner honoring Telles was unveiled over the home press box.
His goal had become Garden Grove’s vow and it was about to be a reality. 10-0. A perfect season inside a very imperfect world.