The El Rancho Dons Varsity Football team competed for their first time in the 2021 season at the Don Memorial Stadium. The Dons destroyed Bell Gardens, 41-0, with a sea of community members cheering them on. Students, parents, and staff alike gathered together for the first time since the 2019 football season.
With packed stands, freshmen and sophomores experienced their first El Rancho home football game. When reflecting on her first football game, freshman Vanessa Martinez said, “It’s a really good experience. Honestly, I feel impressed, especially since the Dons are winning.”
Karoline Balderrama, a freshman, came along with Martinez and was surprised at the experience, even with social distancing restrictions. “They are kind of living up to my expectations, but I feel like a little more entertainment will be better,” Balderrama said.
El Rancho Athletic Director, Gerry Goyenaga, was very impressed and excited about the Dons return. Goyenaga, former history teacher and soccer coach, experienced his first night of El Rancho Football as Athletic Director.
When handling COVID-19 protocols and restrictions, he said “It is a little difficult to manage. But it’s kind of hard to be upset at the number of people who want to be here” and “Once the games happen, it makes it all worth it.”
The football team is one of many moving parts that returned to Friday Night Lights. Band, Color Guard, Cheer, and Song returned to perform at these long-awaited football games.
Although Color Guard did not perform at this home game, the excitement of game night prevailed and sophomore Nadine Palmerin, a Color guard member, had enjoyed “seeing everyone back and getting all hyped for the games and stuff.” COVID-19 concerns still linger for Palmerin, but she said, “I do like the fact that a lot of people still have a mask on.”
El Rancho limited the number of tickets being sold through e-tickets on Gofan.co
Song members Lauren Ruiz and Melani Vargas danced and cheered on the sidelines in support of the football team. Junior Lauren Ruiz feels comfort in testing weekly for their games along with their constant mask-wearing.
“It feels fun to be back, to hype up the crowd, and to be on the field, on our boxes!” Vargas, a junior, stated at halftime.
Both Ruiz and Vargas have been a part of the El Rancho Song Team since their freshmen year. Ruiz remarked, “It feels so good. Like it is so fun to be back and cheer”; a simple part of her life that was taken away during the pandemic.
Not all members of the Freshmen and Sophomore class are experiencing their first El Rancho football game. Sophomore Josef Santana “used to come here when I [he] was 13, 12”, but experiencing it as a student of El Rancho “with all my friends, it’s such a dream,” he said.
Miranda Gonzalez, a junior, enjoys football games as a way to come together in solidarity with her fellow athletes. She said, “It feels good because now I can be with my friends. Also, a lot of different sports come to support football. We get to hang out with our teammates and do some bonding. It’s also fun for school spirit and you get a type of nostalgia coming to the games.”
Gonzalez, a member of the Varsity volleyball team, surrounded herself with her teammates like many of the other fall sports teams. Football games are the epicenter for friends, teammates, families, and players to congregate and enjoy the game or the company of others. Life is slowly settling back to normal and the school spirit, that was lost through remote learning, prevailed through loud cheers and social media posts.
As COVID-19 and the Delta variant pursue, so does the El Rancho football team in the hopes to continue competing with the support of students, staff, and community at Don Memorial Stadium.