At first glance, the players opposite Oakdale High’s freshman football team fit perfectly into the environment on The Corral’s artificial turf on Sept. 8.
Well disciplined and in good shape, the Eagles of Fremont seemed like any other football program in the state — until their unique form of communication quickly became evident.
Fifteen freshmen and sophomores from The California School for the Deaf relayed coaching instruction, strategy and even exuberance via sign language on Thursday in a competitive showdown with Oakdale’s powerful freshman program.
Oakdale won the game 34-6, but CSD showed impressive bursts of athleticism despite a small number of participants and the disability of hearing impairment.
The team was often animated during the contest, and expertly relayed communication from CSD coach Warren Keller and his staff.
“I don’t know how they go about communicating like that so easily,” Oakdale coach Steve Jericoff said. “The coaches were deaf too, and they were well prepared for what they had to deal with, small numbers from a combined sophomores and freshmen.
“They were well coached and our kids were pretty impressed with them.”
Oakdale opened scoring with a 50-yard reception and touchdown from Kevin Corral on the second play of the game. Brock Whiting broke free for a 20-yard touchdown and saw Tyler Flores, Christian Domingo and Landen Ichord all score touchdowns.
A pair of interceptions from Corral and Logan Schultz led the Oakdale defense. C.J. Backman kicked home four extra points.
Oakdale (1-1) is at Rancho Cotate on Thursday and opens the Valley Oak League season at Sierra of Manteca on Sept. 22.
“So far, so good,” coach Jericoff said. “The best team in league we will face will probably be Sierra, so we are trying to hurry up and fine tune things before we play them.”