The thing about losing streaks is they tend to latch on, dig in and snowball.
And the only joy from skids is ending them.
Sometimes, the most compelling high school football stories are not the programs trying to wedge more fans into overflow stadiums or stuff more hardware into their bloated trophy cases. It’s the teams that suffer. The ones that wonder if the scoreboard has conspired against them, that measure success by first downs, no running clocks and with a genuine competitive spirit.
Bella Vista loses 40th in a row
That is what is going on in Fair Oaks, where the Bella Vista Broncos are reluctant owners of regional football futility.
Bella Vista lost its 40th consecutive game on Friday, falling at home to Antelope 42-13.
The bulk of the skid was inherited by a good many of the current players and certainly for first-year coach Justin Reber, but they all wear it like a blot of spilled split-pea soup on their white dress shirts.
This is the longest streak in Northern California history, worsening the mark (not bettering by any means) the streak of 39 by Richmond of the Bay Area from 2001-04, according to our friends from CalHi Sports. It is also the longest current streak in the state.
Sunset High of Hayward had a 38-game skid that ended in 1985 (the school closed in 1990). Central Valley of Shasta Lake had a 38-game skid that stopped in 2000, and that same program endured a 35-game skid that stretched into 1991. The Falcons of the Northern Section soared to 12-0 in 2005, then sputtered through a 1-39 stretch from 2014-2017.
But they’re still competing, still in it, including a 2-3 showing this season, so programs can overcome and live again.
We tip our hats and helmets to the players, coaches and schools that stick it out amid such misery. Nothing pains a campus more than dreadful football droughts. Nothing agonizes players more than the snickering remarks on campus by classmates, though the perfect comeback is, “Yeah, don’t see you out there hitting a blocking sled.”
Bella Vista players refuse to be labeled as losers, because they are not. They wear their game-day polo shirts with pride because being a part of the team means something.
And the Broncos would be delighted to compare SAT or ACT scores with anyone, especially mild-mannered quarterback Jackson Stephen, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound senior putting up good numbers, including his 4.6 grade-point average.
Streaks hit even top football coaches
Streaks can stick to good coaches who have had otherwise remarkable careers. Streaks are not specific to the overwhelmed coach who cannot figure out how to put on his headset.
Dave Hoskins is one of the finest coaches in regional history, still plodding along as an assistant at Capital Christian. In the early 1990s, Hoskins absorbed a 20-game losing streak while head coach at Valley, including scores of 17-7 and 24-13. He kept coaching. By 1995, Valley was 12-1.
Terry Logue is a 200-game winner at Bear River, but his early teams in the 1980s were so putrid the players were afraid to tackle. He taught them how to hit, demanded it, and the Bruins have had one losing season since 1988.
Matt Costa ended losing streaks of 28 games at Kennedy and of 13 at Pleasant Grove, saying when it goes bad, it really goes bad.
Don Dillon had to convince his Rio Linda players mired in a 30-game skid in the early 1980s that football practice was a bit more pressing than the preferred player habit of pheasant hunting.
Colfax had a 34-game skid in the 1970s under coach Bob Claycamp, who proved to be a pretty good coach after all. He later won section championships as an assistant at Placer and Colfax.
McClatchy had a 36-game skid end in 2006, sensing its time was near by practicing the victory formation for kicks. It paid off.
Current teams skidding
Bella Vista will win a game, perhaps this season. It wants no part of a fourth successive 0-10 season. The weight room will become their second home as no varsity players can bench press 225 pounds.
“It takes time, but we’ll get there,” Reber said.
Mira Loma is riding a 22-game losing streak. It snapped a 31-game skid in 2016.
Franklin of Stockton has an on-field skid of 19 games. Florin has lost 16 in a row on the field and Fairfield and Riverbank have both dropped 15 in a row.
Longest Sacramento-area losing streaks
40 - Bella Vista, 2015-current: The Broncos are making small strides, competing to the end and avoiding running clocks.
36 - McClatchy, ending in 2005: The Lions practiced using a victory formation, for fun, and then used it amid cheers and tears when victory came at long last.
34 - Colfax, ending in 1975: Coach Bob Claycamp said he was “young, dumb and naive” in those days though he was plenty bright when he was defensive coordinator for Colfax’s 1986 section championship team.
32 - Natomas, ending in 2014: Everyone in school colors embraced when the skid ended and then really celebrated more when making the playoffs.
31 - Mira Loma, ending in 2016: Players, coaches, custodians and band members did a victory lap to celebrate the end of the streak, but everyone was too tired to scale fences to dive into the pool.
30 - Rio Linda, ending in 1983: Coach Don Dillon’s first task was changing the culture, including halting the players’ midweek, after-school pheasant hunting trips.
28 - Sacramento, ending in 1985: Coach Ron Reclusado received standing ovations in class when the streak ended, and his coaching brother Pete fielded calls “from old girlfriends.”
28 - Kennedy, ending in 2013: Coach Matt Costa was refreshed after “waking from a coma” and then led Kennedy to an 8-3 mark in 2015.
28 - Encina, ending in 1990: The school switched mascots from Apaches to Bulldogs, anything in an effort to change the image and karma.
28 - Encina, ending in 2012: Since they couldn’t change mascots again, Bulldogs coaches promised to dance after a win, and did so when the skid ended.
26 - Galt, ending in 2002: It was so grim for the Warriors that the leading rusher at one midseason was the punter, on three busted plays and a fake.
22 - Bear River, ending in 1988: Coach Terry Logue, still with the program, said players were afraid to tackle in those days. The Bruins have had just one losing season since.