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Mavericks vs. Falcons

The Rivalry Explained

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“I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!” Fans shout back and forth, rocking the stands underneath the beaming Friday night lights. At the renowned Torrey Pines versus La Costa Canyon football games, it doesn’t stay quiet for long as stomping feet, piercing whistles, and occasional cowbells rally each team onto victory. Students, parents, and supporters of all kinds swarm by the hundreds, decked out in all white for the Mavericks or all black for the Falcons. The flames of a rivalry, although years-old, still burn brightly today.

“THE T-SHIRT WAR”

How and when did this passionate rivalry begin? At first, San Dieguito High School and Torrey Pines were the only schools in the San Dieguito Union High School District. Bitterness began to stir when head football coach Ed Burke left the Falcons for the Mustangs.

“He’s a legendary high school coach around the country,” La Costa Canyon history teacher Doug Heflin said. “When he came to San Dieguito, we got good.”

Burke returned to coach at Torrey Pines after a few years and, for the time being, the ill will subsided. When La Costa Canyon opened in 1996, it replaced San Dieguito High School as the new representative of the north part of the district, and would soon be named Torrey Pines’ new rivals.

“It was north versus south–the civil war of the school district,” Heflin said.

The rivalry became football-oriented when Torrey Pines began to beat La Costa Canyon consecutively after it opened. In an effort to show pride for their number of wins, the Falcons created T-shirts to wear to each game.

“Torrey Pines had always made these ‘Never’ shirts, and they would list all the scores from all the games that they won on the back,” Maverick Athletic Director Kari Digiulio said. “Every time Torrey Pines beat La Costa Canyon it was like, “Never ever,” or “Never in the 90s,” and they kept going with all these T-shirts.”

When the Mavericks eventually won, the football team revealed their own T-shirts underneath their jerseys, which read, “FTP.” Little did the crowd know, it stood for something other than what they assumed.

“In really little writing, it said, ‘Forget the Past,’” senior Savannah McMahon said. “It was funny because everyone thought that it stood for something else.”
The intended message of “FTP” voiced the one chant that students in the stands weren’t allowed to yell.

“We couldn’t say those words aloud, so we made a shirt,” Maverick alumni Chris Plummer, from the graduating class of 2008, said.

The letters’ dual meaning only added fuel to the rivalry’s fire. To reduce the tension with Torrey Pines, La Costa Canyon made new shirts reading, “Beat TP.” But after a while, administration decided to take “TP” out of the shirt entirely.

“I don’t have a problem with the ‘Beat TP’ shirts because that’s what you do―you want to beat your opponent,” Digiulio said. “But since putting a stop to the printing of those shirts and making it ‘LCC Pride,’ I think it’s become better.”

Although the T-shirt battle has subsided for now, alumni hold onto their shirts as souvenirs of a memorable time in their high school careers.

“I kept all my stuff like that,” Plummer said. “Even throughout college–I know I’ll never wear it again, but it holds so many memories.”

“SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST”

Football, however, isn’t the only game played on the field. Another vital component to the rivalry is the Survivor competition, which takes place during halftime.

During the five days leading up to the football game, seniors compete for the opportunity to represent their school as a Survivor. Through several mini competitions, like scootering around the Student Center or eating an entire watermelon as fast as possible, a male and a female winner are chosen to compete on Friday night.

For some students, becoming Survivor has been a long term goal.

“When I was a freshman, I would always see [the Survivors] up there,” La Costa Canyon Survivor Savannah Boyd said. “Every year I was stoked to watch the competition. I’m super competitive, so I thought, ‘I want to do that.’”

Over the course of Survivor Week, students have the chance to show which skills they can bring to the table in the real competition.

“I’m fast because I do cross country and track,” Boyd said. “I’m also good with doing things under pressure, like eating fast.”

However, the Falcon competitors had assets of their own.   

“At the game, the [Torrey Pines Survivors] were both big and pretty tall,” Maverick Survivor Josh Trup said. “It was obviously going to be a hard matchup.”

With both schools’ pride on the line, student competitors face stress going into the competition.

“There’s only two of us to carry our school’s reputation,” Boyd said. “It’s just a little game, but I still wanted to make La Costa Canyon proud and put Torrey Pines in their place.”

When halftime on November 6 rolled around, the Maverick Survivors felt unprepared. Rumor had it that, prior to the showdown, Torrey Pines’ ASB hadn’t communicated with La Costa Canyon’s ASB to let the Maverick Survivors know the basic activities they’d complete that night.

“I was a little discouraged because [the Falcons] knew ahead of time what was going on and we didn’t,” Boyd said.

Confusion took place in the stands as well when observers couldn’t easily see some of the game’s tasks.

“The crowd didn’t really know what was going on,” Trup said. “A lot of people thought I was eating pie at the table when I was suppose to be solving a puzzle.”

By the end of the competition, Torrey Pines’ Survivors took the victory. Nevertheless, Maverick fans cheered on their competitors through it all.

“I was a little nervous everyone would hate me if I lost, but [the crowd] jumped right on my side,” Boyd said. “Everyone was screaming, ‘You got this!’ I knew they would support me no matter what.”

Despite their effort, competitors look back on the game with dissatisfaction.

“I wish it was more of a fair competition,” Boyd said. “I wanted a re-do, where [the Mavericks and Falcons] are both on an even playing field.”

“BATTLE OF THE FANS”

Especially for the notorious rivalry game, students show their school pride by looking and sounding uniform in the stands. Wearing all white or all black and yelling various chants and songs, students utilize yet another way to compete with the other team.

“It’s super hyped up,” Falcon senior Ara Suhadolnik said. “The student sections have their own game between each other because you want to be louder and have better chants than the other team.”

Because of this competition, school spirit now depends heavily on the fans’ enthusiasm and preparedness.

“Last year, especially at the basketball game, I remember [the Falcons’] student section was a lot more creative and involved,” Maverick senior Jacob Lin said. “Someone would just yell something and everyone would repeat it, compared to someone being in charge and having a plan. It showed last year that we didn’t have a plan or a leader, and Torrey Pines had both.”

In some cases, however, students used their voices to degrade the other team rather than support their own.

“Back in the day, some of the dialogue back and forth was not at all appropriate, on both sides,” Torrey Pines principal Mark Jaffe said. “For students at a high school level, calling out the players on the other teams and making derogatory remarks about their families is just not cool.”

With power in numbers, students have the ability to do some verbal damage.

“It’s brought ugliness out of our students, in terms of the things that we’re yelling or finding out about people’s personal lives to attack [the other team] on the field,” Digiulio said. “I remember, in 2003, La Costa Canyon attacking the kicker from Torrey Pines. It becomes less about the sport and more about what negative things you can say.”

Administration favors integrity and safety, but students worry that it limits the schools’ competition too much.   

“Administration puts a big damper on [the rivalry] because they are scared that violent things will happen,” ASB senior Class President Bryan Johnson said. “But it’s a big deal to us as a student section that we have this rivalry.”

“TIME FOR A CHANGE”

In some ways, the two schools’ competitive nature has impacted students negatively.

“The rivalry has created a barrier between the kids,” Suhadolnik said. “People can really dislike each other because they go to the other school.”

Bad blood between students, however, rose to a whole new level. In years past, Mavericks supposedly tried to sabotage their opponents.

“There was vandalism against both schools,” Heflin said. “Somebody from La Costa Canyon allegedly put broken glass all over Torrey Pines’ football field.”

Falcons have also taken the rivalry to extremes, abusing their adversary’s mascot.

“There were [Torrey Pines] kids hanging the cow costume from the goal post,” Digiulio said. “At that point, we were instructed by the superintendent of our district that something needed to change with these two schools, because it had gotten out of hand.”

Both schools’ administrative teams hoped to see a change in the direction the rivalry was headed. In 2013, they implemented the interactive field trip “Sportsmanship Summit.”

“We put together a plan to bring student athletes together at San Dieguito Academy,” Digiulio said. “They learned CPR lifesaving skills. It was a sportsmanship symposium.”

However, not everyone who went to the Summit were persuaded to tone down the rivalry.

“We can’t be nice, friendly rivals and still be competitive,” Varsity football player Paul Neumann said. “We can respect each other, but when it comes down to the actual game and the actual rivalry, we leave everything on the field.”

Teachers also tried to make a positive experience out of the rivalry through the creation of the Beach Bowl. Doug Heflin created this title so the competition could involve all the region’s beach communities, such as Carlsbad and Encinitas.

Like Carlsbad Rotary Club’s “Rotary Cup” for the football City Championship, teachers wanted to create a Beach Bowl trophy to pump up the rivalry between La Costa Canyon and Torrey Pines.

“Coach Darin Brown thought a surfboard would be a cool trophy,” Heflin said. “A retired science teacher, Mr. Trust, said he had an old board in his garage we could use, and Mr. Lenc said they would work on decorating it in his art class.”

Now, the surfboard trophy is presented to the winning football team each year, one half painted green for the Mavericks and the other half gold for the Falcons.

Despite ugliness of the past, the years of competition have created more energy and excitement for Mavericks and Falcons alike.

“I think the spirit on campus is awesome and traditionally, it has been that way with every sport when you’re playing Torrey Pines,” Digiulio said. “Even at times when our specific sports aren’t doing as well, we still bring a crowd for that game.”

Between the two schools, competition is something each student can relate to and share.

“The rivalry brought togetherness and unity,” Plummer said. “Like being a fan of a sports team, you have something in common regardless of how different you are.”

Even after high school, the Maverick to Falcon connection still remains.

“The interesting thing is all these kids know each other,” Jaffe said. “When you guys graduate, you’ll end up being friends.”

Over the years, La Costa Canyon and Torrey Pines have found ways to compete, for the most part, in healthy, productive ways.

“The two schools are so close in everything that they have,” Digiulio said. “They have great athletic programs; they have great academics. When we can bring it together as a spirited rivalry as opposed to a hatred towards one another, we’re good to go.”

Administration maintains that the rivalry improved both campuses for the better.

“I really like the direction both schools are going,” Jaffe said. “I’ve been in this district for 23 years now, and I’ve been at six of the schools at some capacity, and I’ll say, first and foremost, that I’m proud of this school district.”

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