Just before its CIF-Southern Section Division 7 playoff game against Woodrow Wilson of Long Beach, the West Ranch football team ran on the field through its usual inflatable Wildcat. But on Friday night, there was a new element added to the entrance.
Players rushed the field holding flags with the letters “S,” “H,” and “S,” on them in support of Saugus High School and the events that left three students dead and three more injured.
Each player donned a “Saugus Strong” sticker on his helmet and miles away, Hart football players sported similar stickers on their helmets as they took the field to play San Juan Hills in the CIF-SS Division 4 playoffs.
“Between West Ranch running out with our flags and Hart putting stickers on their helmets, it’s just really amazing,” said Saugus football coach Jason Bornn, who was in attendance for the West Ranch game.
“When you put all the football rivalries, all the school rivalries to the side, at the end of the day, we’re all humans and this community is really a tight-knit community and it’s been really comforting and enjoyable to see how everyone has come together. Alumni, other schools coaches, it’s been awesome.”
Ordinarily, the West Ranch student section, The Pack, and the Saugus student section, The Blue Crew, cannot stop chirping at each other and the players on the field.
It’s one of the most heated sports rivalries off the field in the Santa Clarita Valley, but on Friday night The Pack and The Blue Crew intermingled in the bleachers, calling themselves “The District,” during the game between West Ranch and Woodrow Wilson.
Originally, West Ranch’s theme was tie-dye, but after realizing that the Wildcats had the only home football game on Friday night, The Pack changed the theme to Saugus blue and welcomed students from all Hart District schools. The decision was made hours after the events that left three Saugus students dead the three more injured.
“It makes me really happy because I talked to a lot of the Saugus kids and they didn’t even want to leave their house,” said Pack leader Reagan Nibarger. “So (this is) a safe place they can come to get away for a minute or be with their friends and enjoy being a high schooler besides all the chaos that’s been going on.”
In addition to the student section — and really all the crowd in attendance — wearing blue, West Ranch had several other ways of supporting Saugus.
A banner hung on the fence at the entrance of the Valencia High School stadium for attendees to sign to show support, while West Ranch staff members handed out orange and blue ribbons nearby. Donations were also being accepted for victims and their families.
“We were looking to unify the whole district to make sure we show that we are stronger than the hateful act that was committed,” said Will Mulry, another Pack leader. “All together, we can support Saugus and our football team at the same time.”
Although donations are helpful and symbols of support are gracious, Nibarger said that the best way people can help is much more simple:
“Just going about your life from here on out being nice to everyone you encounter,” she said, “and making a positive impact on them because you never know what they’re going through or what’s going to happen the next day.”