The 1996 Santa Cruz (Calif.) Coast Athletic League finished with the uber-rare shared league crown. For the two decades since the conclusion of that season, members of both San Lorenzo Valley (SLV) and Harbor High could claim to be league champions … until Saturday.
Motivated by the 20th anniversary of both teams’ historic seasons, alumni of those two squads reached out and organized a reunion game between the two teams to decide on a champion once and for all. According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, just 13 members of the 1996 Harbor squad returned to compete in the game, and there weren’t too many more from SLV. But those who did reportedly laid everything on the line, producing a contest that left two of Harbor’s 13 members permanently on the sideline, and, eventually, nursing the bruised egos that followed a 6-0 overtime loss to SLV.
Not that the score was most important factor for players of either team, particularly with all the proceeds from the game split between the two schools’ athletic departments. It was all about competition.
“I was on autopilot,” Harbor quarterback Wali Razaqi said. “I couldn’t feel my ankle. I don’t know what’s wrong with it. I can’t feel my back, my tailbone. But these guys really played. They were going all out in a competitive … it seems like everyone had clear eyes and a full heart today. They really did, because I don’t feel like I lost.”
The very existence of this game is pretty wonderful, but there’s a twist that may be even more mentally rewarding: According to the Sentinel, Razaqi, a film producer from L.A., had his own crew on hand to film the game, as did NBC Sports. That means there are two permanent video records of 36-38 year-olds blowing each other up along the sidelines in pursuit of a title that has already outlasted its bragging rights by 19 years.
If nothing else, perhaps the teams’ resurrected rivalry will inspire other former football stars to cobble together alumni teams of their own to face-off in second life showdowns. We’re more than happy to watch any and all of them, believe us.