Members of the Delhi High School football team wore their jerseys on Saturday morning as they removed weeds and overgrown bushes along Schendel Avenue in Delhi as they volunteered their time during a community cleanup.
The Hawks spent four hours working, just a few blocks from the school’s football stadium where an ugly scene unfolded just over three weeks ago in the season opener against El Capitan.
A brawl between the two teams forced the game to be stopped by the officials in the third quarter.
As a result, Delhi High School suspended seven players from school and announced a self-imposed forfeit of its next two games against Ceres and Big Valley Christian. The Sac-Joaquin Section also suspended eight Delhi and 10 El Capitan players for three games.
The district’s decision to forfeit the two games didn’t count toward the suspensions handed out by the section, so the eight Delhi players will miss the next three games on top of the two forfeits.
“If you want to be a champion you have to start behaving like a champion throughout, regardless of what the scoreboard says,” Delhi Union School District Superintendent Jose Miguel Kubes said. “So these moments are the ones where a champion is built not just when you win but even when you don’t win.”
“As members of the Delhi community, when we’re not proud, we’re going to be present,” he added. “This is one of those moments where we’re sending ourselves a message that that’s not who we are — that incident that took place — isn’t representative of the greatness these kids have.”
The school decided to put football on pause after the incident to “process what took place, strengthen our commitment to the community and to send out a unified message that we can rise from our mistakes,” the district said in a statement after announcing the suspensions the week following the incident.
Administrators and other adults on campus have spent time mentoring the players the past few weeks. The players have had plenty of time to reflect on the fight.
“We have to take it upon ourselves to be better,” junior running back Robert Chan said. “We have to control our emotions and not act the way we acted that night. These last few weeks have been pretty tough but we have to learn from what we’ve done. We have to take on these consequences to try to learn from this experience and learn from our mistakes.”
The big message to the players is they have to learn to control their emotions. They can’t just react in situations like that.
Now many are seeing the consequences.
Junior Antonio Gutierrez is one of the players who will end up sitting out half the season due to his involvement in the fight.
He said it was tough watching the video of the brawl and he regrets his actions.
“It irritates me the decisions that we made and especially decisions I made,” Gutierrez said. “The adrenaline got control of me. I just got angry and the anger took control of me. I don’t know what I was thinking. I really regret and seeing the video disgusted me. I don’t want to do anything like that again.”
The players say they want to move on from the incident and prove one bad night doesn’t define who they are.
Saturday’s cleanup wasn’t a punishment. It wasn’t mandatory for the players to show up, but the majority were out there. They used it as a bonding opportunity.
“This is for the community, making our town look better and better,” Gutierrez said.
People driving past honked and offered their support. People walking their dogs also thanked the players, telling them the area looked great.
“We’re here to bond as a team and make up for what we did,” Chan said. “We want our community to look at us for who we are and not what happened that game. We want to show that we can do good things, too.”
Delhi will return to the football field on Friday night against Waterford at home. It will be homecoming night for the Hawks, who will only have 16 players in uniform with the eight others still serving suspensions.
“These last few weeks have been pretty tough but we have to learn from what we’ve done,” Chan said. “We have to take on these consequences to try to learn from this experience and learn from our mistakes.”