Undefeated: Deaf football team brings triumph and pride to California community

The players and coaches rely on American Sign Language to communicate.

November 20, 2021, 7:59 AM

Once considered underdogs, the football team at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside has defied the odds with an undefeated season that has electrified and inspired spectators in California and beyond.

The Cubs Varsity football team was 11 and 0 this season and now has won the division championship game, which is a first in the school's 68-year history.

"It's inspiring for the deaf community quite honestly. 11 and 0 we've never experienced this being this far in playoffs," coach Keith Adams told ABC News. "The community is so excited, the morale has been uplifted, the self-esteem of our players -- you can see a major difference."

PHOTO: Players from the Cubs Varsity football team at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside are seen during one of their games in 2021.
Players from the Cubs Varsity football team at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside are seen during one of their games in 2021.
Amelia Ortiz/CSDR Student Yearbook Committee

Wide receiver Jory Valencia told ABC News that the notion that they've never had a successful season only "fired us up" and inspired them to push harder each game.

"Now we're just destroying every game. We're showing the world we can play. We're not losing anymore," he said.

The players and coaches rely on American Sign Language to communicate and spoke with ABC News through an ASL translator.

Running back Enos Zornoza said that their success this season is due to their perseverance and hard work during each practice.

PHOTO: Running back Enos Zornoza, a student at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside, is pictured during one of the Cubs Varsity football team games in 2021.
Running back Enos Zornoza, a student at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside, is pictured during one of the Cubs Varsity football team games in 2021.
Amelia Ortiz/CSDR Student Yearbook Committee

He said that they've had their eyes on the championship from the beginning, but they took it "one game at a time, one practice at a time."

"Other players like to fool around, they're like, come on, guys. Stay committed. Stay on task. So I think that it just takes teamwork," wide receiver and quarterback Phillip Castaneda told ABC News, reflecting on the historic season.

Castaneda added that he and his teammates have "amazing chemistry," which gives them the energy they need to win on the field.

PHOTO: Wide receiver Jory Valencia #3, a student at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside, runs with the ball during one of the Cubs Varsity football team games in 2021.
Wide receiver Jory Valencia #3, a student at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside, runs with the ball during one of the Cubs Varsity football team games in 2021.
Amelia Ortiz/CSDR Student Yearbook Committee

Adams said his players are so talented that they have made coaching "easy" for him.

"They're great kids," he said.

"I knew we were going to have a good team, but they have just amazed me -- exceeded my expectations."

PHOTO: Members of the Cubs, the California School for the Deaf, Riverside's varsity football team, gather in the locker room at halftime in Riverside, Calif., on Nov. 12, 2021.
Members of the Cubs, the California School for the Deaf, Riverside's varsity football team, gather in the locker room at halftime in Riverside, Calif., on Nov. 12, 2021.
Adam Perez/The New York Times via Redux

Asked what he hopes the Cubs' story of triumph will teach others, Zornoza said he hopes the attention they are getting nationwide will inspire other deaf kids and give them hope.

"We can do anything. Deaf people can do anything," he said. "We're not this stereotype that's out there."

"We're breaking news that we can do it right. And not just our school here but other schools for the deaf can do it as well."

Now the team is getting ready to head to state. "We are not done, one more game, we are looking for that ring. One more game," Adams said.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events