In August, freshman William Olvera, sophomore Riley Hagar and senior William Moore all hoped to become the starting quarterback for the Palm Springs High School football team.
Two days before the Indians’ intrasquad scrimmage, coach Dan Murphy announced in front of the entire team that Olvera had won the job.
At first, Moore and Hagar were angry, but their resentment faded after a day or two, and as the season progressed, the three players all bought into a phrase that Murphy introduced to the team — “believe and battle.” Those three words have become a mantra for the Indians, and the trio illustrated its importance one week ago against Cathedral City.
“I’m proud of the way they’ve matured over the season and accepted their roles,” Murphy said. “There’s no animosity.”
Moore, who backed up starter Dane Tiedeman last year, admits he wasn’t prepared to beat out Hagar and Olvera for the job in August.
“I didn’t even see it coming,” he said, “but when I saw their skill, then I knew it was a competition.”
Although he was pleased to earn the starting role, Olvera sympathized with his competitors, especially Moore.
“It’s his last year,” Olvera said, “and I was like, ‘Man, I don’t want to take this from him,’ but also I wanted to be the starter.”
Hagar and Moore quickly overcame their disappointment. Murphy sat down with both players to explain the decision and outline their new roles. He needed Hagar to step in for Olvera at a moment’s notice as the backup quarterback and Moore to exploit his speed and quickness at wide receiver.
While the two accepted their responsibilities, everyone on the team rallied around three words that Murphy adopted from a friend — “believe and battle.” Hagar said it means to “believe in your team, don’t give up and battle for all four quarters.”
Olvera, Hagar and Moore demonstrated the significance of that mantra last week against Cathedral City. Overexcited before his first start against the Indians’ rival, Olvera struggled.
“Since I’m the quarterback, I put a lot of stuff on my shoulders,” he said. “We started off really, really slow because of me.”
He threw an interception, lost a fumble and mishandled a handoff that the Lions recovered. With the Indians trailing 7-0 with 3:20 to go before halftime, Hagar replaced Olvera. The move sparked the Indians, who scored two touchdowns to take a 14-7 halftime lead.
Hagar didn’t know how Olvera would react to his success.
“I actually didn’t think he was going to give me high-fives or nothing, but he actually did and said, ‘Good job,’ ” said Hagar, who started against Coachella Valley when Olvera was injured. “It was pretty cool.”
Olvera was only angry at himself for his poor play.
“When somebody can’t get it done, the other person can do it,” said Olvera, who will start tonight against Temescal Canyon. “We trust each other. It works.”
With Hagar continuing his strong play after halftime, the Indians went on to win 45-17 and clinch their fourth DVL title in five years. Hagar was perfect, completing 10 of 10 passes for 246 yards and four touchdowns.
Making his first start of the year at receiver, Moore also excelled. The senior stepped in for Michael Greer, whose offensive role was eliminated so he could star exclusively on defense. Moore caught six passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns.
Olvera, Hagar and Moore all joined forces for one of Moore’s scores. Olvera entered the game late in the third quarter for the first time since Hagar replaced him. With Hagar in motion, Olvera took the snap and handed off the ball to Hagar, who stepped back and hit a leaping Moore in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown.
It was a perfect illustration of what all three players have learned this season.
“As long as they come to realize what this is all about, and you need to make sacrifices for what’s best for the team,” Murphy said, “then we’ve done our job as coaches, and I’m happy and proud about that.”