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FREMONT, Calif. — A Bay Area deaf football team proved naysayers wrong this season by clinching their league title despite what seemed to some to be overwhelming disadvantages.
The California School for the Deaf's Eagles finished 10-2 this season and won the North Central II- Bay League title along with setting a single-season record for wins. They said their being deaf actually gave them an advantage on the field.
"Some might call us disabled, but that can be extra motivation for us," quarterback Carlos Lopez told the Oakland Tribune. "Some of us might feel hurt or angry (by that), but when it comes time to play the game, we prove them wrong and we earn their respect."
The team uses a combination of sign language and color-coded boards to call plays. The 19 players are smaller than their opponents, but make up for it by running a no-huddle offense that exhausts the other team.
"Our goal is to get off a play within seven seconds after a referee spots the ball," Coach Warren Keller told the Mercury News. "We try to get off so many snaps that it's like playing two games in one day."
The strategy worked: the team racked up 349 points in 11 games, averaging about 32 points a game, and won their first league title since 2002. It was only their second title since 1991.
Keller said the team does is not all that different from any other football team, and opposing coaches agreed.
"They're one of the most disciplined teams we play," said Gary Galloway of Petaluma's St. Vincent de Paul. "It might be because of the focus they have to have (as deaf players). It was amazing to see how excited they were to play the game."
The team finished second place Tuesday in a contest to win a $25,000 grant at Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year Ceremony. They were one of 10 teams vying for the honor.
They were named the National Deaf Prep Football Champion by the National Deaf Interscholastic Athletic Association.