The Blair High School football program is looking up this coming season. And what they want to see is their own scoreboard on their very own football field.
The team is holding a fundraiser, hosted by parents and community members, in the hopes of raising enough money to help the Vikings have smooth sailing this year.
“The Vikings program was in dire straits for a lot of years when I came here three years ago,” said Vikings Football Coach Erick Pineda. “But I saw it as an opportunity to build the program from the ground up. We didn’t have a field to play on and I really had to sell the program.”
The school’s football program had a history of defeat and there was little faith in its prospects, as it had gone for years without a win. It was discouraging for players, parents and everyone, Pineda said.
“There was even a [sports] beat writer who said, ‘I don’t know why they even try,'” Pineda recalled. “Maybe he wrote it for motivation, but it was tough. But I believed in the process and I kept saying ‘If we stay the course, things will turn out.”
It’s been challenging for the Vikings, who for years have mustered a football team without a home field, and against continual skepticism from the community and sometimes even from their own players.
But last year there was a turning point.
“The team hadn’t won a game in three seasons,” Pineda said. “There was a previous bill that accumulated from previous coaches. We didn’t have any resources. We didn’t have a field to play on and so all of our games were on the road.”
But Pineda was determined to turn the team around. He started a fundraising drive with the parents to raise money for the team so the kids could have new jerseys.
“I really had to sell this program because we didn’t have a field, and the kids were reluctant to play, they didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of their friends,” Pineda said. “But they wanted the Vikings jerseys, and the kids had to play to get a jersey.
“At the beginning of the season, I told them, ‘The good news is we have a football team, the bad news is we have to be on the road for all nine games because we have no field,'” Pineda said. “I told them, ‘Like the real Vikings, we’re going on a journey — a long boat trip — and I hope you’re willing to take that boat trip with me. Who’s in?’
“But it was rocky, we got beat up a little bit,” Pineda recalled. “We went everywhere, Riverside, San Pedro and Kern County. We had some close games. But we were able to squeeze two wins and we went 2-7. So we put in a bid for playoffs and unbelievably, and by the good graces of the CIF, we were invited to a playoff game.”
But Pineda couldn’t believe where the playoff game was going to be held.
“Where do you think our playoff game was?” he asked. “It was against Avalon High School — on Catalina Island. So we really were going to take that long boat trip, just as I had said. I thought it was ironic. I did not foresee that.”
The parents and team raised $1,200 for the long boat ride last year.
So this year, armed with at least a little self-respect, a playoff game under their belt and a hopeful season ahead, the team is rallying to raise money for a scoreboard for their own home field.
“The field is a lot better than it was,” Pineda said. “We are glad to have a home field. But we really need a scoreboard with our logo on it so the kids can look up and have pride.”
There are also other needs, like lights for night games, but one step at a time and Pineda said they will work the schedule to play afternoons. But the scoreboard is critical and there is a time element. The team’s first game is Sept. 6 at Blair High School.
“We’re asking for the community’s help,” Pineda said. They are aiming for $3,100 this time around, which will cover the cost of the scoreboard.
“Last year we had two goals: To just be positive and to finish the season,” Pineda said. “But things have changed. This year our goal is to win five games. And the kids want another playoff appearance, but more important than anything, this year they really want to win.”