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After 0-7 Season Start, Riverside’s Arlington High School Football Team Headed to State Championship

Juan Moreno
Arlington football players entering the field before the start of a game.

Riverside’s Arlington High School’s football team will play for the Division 6-A state championship this Saturday.

I’m a proud 2014 Arlington Lion alumni and sometimes a fill-in announcer for the football team. So, yeah, I’m excited about Saturday’s game.

And so is my former teacher Patricia Orozco Palagi. She’s been teaching at Arlington for 23 years and is the mom of a current player. “I think having a winning season and coming this far, after having so many years of not a lot of success, has meant a lot,” said Palagi.

The Lions came into the season 1 and 24. That’s just one win in three years and dropped its first seven games of the season.

Palagi shared a story of hearing students talk about the team before the start of the season. “We were at a prep rally, an outdoor prep rally in the fall, and the football team had a game during the prep rally with another team, and they won, and I heard two students behind me were laughing, and one of them said that’s all they’re going to win this season.”

The Lions were 2 and 8 during the regular season and made it into the playoffs via a coin toss after a three-way tie. Palagi added, “A lot of times, even though the score didn’t look like they were doing well, you could tell that they were improving.”

Juen Moreno
Arlington's captains standing with Coach Argumosa after they beat El Camino Real Charter High School 24-14 to win the Southern Regional Championship for Divison 6-A.

Then, back in October, they started winning. “And it was really the Hillcrest game. The kids went in there, believing I saw it in their eyes. They believed in each other, they believed in the concept, they believed in the team, we pulled off that victory, and that’s really what set the tone for the change of the program,” said Lion’s head coach Kevin Argumosa. Coach Argumosa was hired just a month before the season started. Since their first win again Hillcrest High School, the Lions have now won seven out of their last eight and won the CIF Southern Section Division 13 Championship through the process.

Argumosa says, “What teams have been doing for Spring and Summer into the first couple games, we finally hit it, but it hit at the playoff mark, and it’s just been at the right time for us.”

Even through those first seven losses, he kept encouraging his players to keep grinding and keep working hard. He said, “and that’s what’s been the drive, is we love proving people wrong, we’ve never had the edge, we’ve never been given the edge in any game, so our guys like that, we like being the underdog and we just keep fighting to stay alive and to be successful.”

Gregory McDaniel is a Senior and a Defensive Tackle with the team. He goes by the nickname Buddha. “We got our first win and realized that we’re actually a good team and we could beat the opposing teams. It flipped a switch in everyone’s head, and we haven’t been losing since,” said McDaniel.

Juan Moreno
Gregory "Buddha" McDaniels (Center) with his teammates Christian Barnett (Left) and Ray Warhop (Right).

During the playoffs, McDaniel has had 17 total tackles. I asked him how it felt to make it to the state championship. Macdaniel’s said, “It feels great because like all the work we put in, being here for four years and coming to practice every day, practicing to end up loose, and now to actually win and know what it feels like, it feels great.”

As the team heads up to the Bay Area to play Richmond’s Salesian College Preparatory, I ask Coach Argumosa for a preview of his locker room speech. He said, “I tell them every week; the difference is the final check we get to cash. We talk about pack your lunch pails; it’s time to go to work and cash that check in, and this time it’s the final check and let’s go take care of business.”

Whatever the scoreboard shows at the end of the game, Argumonsa says, “It’s not going to matter, the scores not going to matter, the scores never matter as long as we work hard. I told them, as long as you give me everything you got, 100%, the scores going to read what it reads, but as a group, these guys have been giving us 100%, so that’s all I ask for.”

The game will take place on Saturday, Dec. 11 at 1 PM at Salesian College Preparatory in Richmond, Ca. You can CLICK HERE for the game’s lifestream link.

Special thanks to Arlington student Juan Moreno for providing photos for this article. You can view more of his content at https://juanshootss.mypixieset.com.