Written by: Mitch Donat
The Palo Alto Unified School District decided in December to cancel the Gunn-Palo Alto High School (Paly) football game for the 2013 season. After the next season, the district will discuss whether to schedule the rivalry game for 2014.
Although the district has mentioned a cancellation of the game as a possibility in past years, cancellation was never formally discussed, until the disappointing outcome of this year’s rivalry game at Paly, which Paly won 48-0. This instigated talks about cancelling the acclaimed matchup for future seasons.
Although the common belief is that Gunn decided unilaterally to cancel the game, input actually came from all sides until the district reached a unanimous decision. “It wasn’t just me behind closed doors,” Principal Katya Villalobos said. “It was a truly district-wide unanimous decision with [superintendent] Dr. Kevin Skelly’s support.”
According to Assistant Principal Trinity Klein, the negative feelings of participants in last year’s game brough about the discussion to end the rivalry. “The primary reason not to schedule a Gunn-Paly football game is that we did not believe it was helpful in promoting a sense of community in Palo Alto,” Klein said.
According to the administration, the game also lacked positive spirit. “It wasn’t friendly competition anymore,” Villalobos said. “It was more of the negativity of ‘why is one school always winning, and one school always losing?’”
Another reason for the cancellation was the concern over safety and potential injuries. “Paly is obviously in the tougher league,” Villalobos said. “Because of this, in terms of the matchups and the physicality of the game, we weren’t matched up properly.”
Since the Gunn-Paly game is a popular competition and an old tradition, Gunn football players are disappointed. “I thought it was a fun rivalry game,” senior quarterback Andre Guzman said. “Sometimes you get beat down in football, that’s just part of the game. Same in life; you can’t snap your fingers and get rid of your problems.”
Junior Sean Lydster, who will be playing his last season of high school football next school year, feels similarly. “Of course I’m a little disappointed,” Lydster said. “Even though we ended up on the downside of the scoreboard the past few years, it’s still a fun tradition.”
Gunn varsity football assistant coach Mark Weisman understands his players’ disappointment. “Rivalry games are important to high school sports,” he said. “[Rivalry games] are about growing up and coming together as a community.”
Paly players also expressed unhappiness and bitterness. “I really enjoyed the rivalry game,” Paly junior Malcolm Davis said. “I’m going to miss playing against Gunn my senior year because of how great the turnout is. Everyone comes to the game.”
Villalobos respects and understands the disappointment from those involved in football. “Don’t get me wrong, life is life, and in life there is going to be a winner and a loser,” she said. “I totally respect the feelings of pride and disappointment from players at Gunn and Paly.”