Decisive win over Crossroads delivers football championship to undefeated Firehawks

Triumph comes in spite of quarterback Dauer’s sore back; almost 200 in Santa Monica to watch Buckley’s final game


BP Photo by Ezra Fax

CHAMPIONS: Quarterback Jacob Dauer carries the ball through the Roadrunner defense.

By Zev Kent, Staff Writer

The Firehawk boys flag football team beat Crossroads 26-19 in the Coast League championship game last night, capping off a perfect season with a 14th straight win as more than 110 Shalhevet fans crowding the sidelines at Norton Field in Santa Monica.

As time expired, ecstatic players drenched Mr. Buckley in water to celebrate the victory, the undefeated season, and Shalhevet’s first flag football championship.

“It feels amazing,” said junior Jonah Gill. “It was our first year in the league, and to come out and go undefeated and win the championship is remarkable.”

The game started off well for the Firehawks, holding off Crossroads in the opening drive and scoring a touchdown on the returning drive.

However, the game was not completely dominated by Shalhevet. The first half was evenly matched, with the Roadrunners coming out of the half up by one with a score of 13-12.

“The game could’ve gone either way,” said Reuben Morales, coach of the Crossroads flag football team. “It was a very close game and a great game all the way around, but the better team won today.”

It wasn’t until the second half that the Firehawks pulled away from Crossroads by two touchdowns and put the game away. Senior Max Helfand was a major reason why Shalhevet was able to win, as he had been all season.

“The whole second half of the season, Max has erupted,” said Firehawk co-captain Mati Hurwitz. “He was only a secondary option in the first part of the year, but for the second half he’s been a touchdown machine.”

Max had three out of Shalhevet’s four touchdowns last night, and junior Micah Gill scored the last one to put the game away.

The defense also stepped up to win the game. Two interceptions by senior Adam Kaufler and sophomore Eitan Halpert helped stop Crossroads from scoring, and one of these interceptions resulted in a touchdown for Shalhevet.

Another major factor in the win was quarterback Jacob Dauer. He had been injured during practice Sunday and had a sore back, but that didn’t stop him from throwing four touchdown passes to win the championship game.

“Jacob playing through the pain was huge,” said Jonah. “He hadn’t been 100 percent since Sunday.”

Despite the injury and the distraction of Mr. Buckley’s resignation last week, the team was able to come together and step up in the biggest of moments.

“With the events of last week we were especially motivated,” said Mati. “But at the end of the day, it’s for the team. It’s for us.”

Interviewed later in the evening, Coach Buckley said the team had overcome everything from Jacob’s injury to a different kind of surface – astroturf instead of the dried grass of the home field at LACES. The Firehawks practiced on the turf for an hour Monday night.

“We got beat at the line of scrimmage worse than in any other game we played this year, for a significant portion of the game,” Mr. Buckley said. “Their defensive pass rush we couldn’t handle, and we were slow to adjust to it. We tried making adjustments to it, they didn’t work and it was also exacerbated by Jacob’s limited mobility due to his back injury.

“Luckily the big plays we made were really big,” he said.

He also credited his first-ever assistant coach, Mr. Charlie Wiesel, who had stepped in to help with last Thursday’s playoff versus New Community Jewish High School the day after Mr. Buckley resigned.

“All his advice and insights leading up to the game and during the game were spot on and I think it really helped us,” said Mr. Buckley.

In his post-game speech to players, Mr. Buckley said the day had been the best day of his life and that he’d never forget it. The sentiment seemed to be widely shared.

“Today was an amazing day,” said sophomore Eitan Halpert. “Hopefully this championship is the first of many for our unstoppable team.”