Shalhevet beats YULA in a rivalry that never gets old


Rami Fink

KICKOFF: Shalhevet’s Avi Weinreb gets ready to return a kick against YULA Sep. 17.

By Rami Fink, Staff Writer

It was bright and sunny on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 17, when the Shalhevet Firehawks took the field against their crosstown rivals, the YULA Panthers, in their annual rivalry game in flag football. As the Hawks lined up for the kickoff, their red and black uniforms clashed dramatically against the stark yellow of the Panthers’ jerseys.

And that was only the beginning of the conflict as the two hyped-up teams met at Woodley Park in Van Nuys. The Westside Modern Orthodox community’s two largest high schools have an ongoing rivalry across all sports, and flag football, in just its fifth season, is the newest.

Shalhevet won 12-6 after leading the whole game.

“It felt good to beat them, but we wanted to destroy them,” said senior Ilan Bouskila.

It was the week before Rosh Hashanah, but the players insisted it was all in fun. Ilan’s father, Judaic Studies teacher Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, wondered whether senseless hatred — the dreaded sinat chinam — might be involved.

“Who’s ready for the sinat chinam match of the year?” Rabbi Bouskila asked.

“Any trash talk was totally friendly,” replied Ilan.

YULA scored only once — in the second quarter — though it got close many times. The first play of the game was a deep pass to YULA receiver Daniel Dahan that was swatted down by Firehawk freshman Mikey Oelberger to prevent a touchdown.

In the middle of the third quarter, cheers and screams rose as Firehawk senior Sam Hirschhorn returned a punt for 80 yards. He twisted and spun through a sea of black and yellow, and continued sprinting all the way to the end zone.

The fans went wild — but the referee called a controversial flag-guarding penalty that retracted the touchdown.

Throughout the rest of the game, the Shalhevet defense put an immediate stop to any YULA attack. Shalhevet junior and offensive lineman Ami Nelson described the defense as a key reason for the win.

“Our defense was definitely there — really shut them down,” said Ami.

While the game itself carried on as any other, emotions ran high for all the players.

“It was definitely more of a personal thing — there was a difference,” said Ami.  “I have memories back in 9th grade of losing to YULA, and it feels good to be the winners this time.”

Senior and receiver Sam Hirschhorn said “tensions are really high” whenever the two teams meet.

“We both wanna beat each other really badly,” said Sam.

YULA’s coach Dayvon Ross wasn’t sure Shalhevet had really earned the win.

“They had the refs on their side, and that’s what gave them the win,” Coach Ross said.  He declined to elaborate with any specific examples.

He said he expects the two teams to meet again in the playoffs, and predicted that YULA would win then. However, they never met.

But along with the other emotions in evidence, there was also a degree of respect.

Sam Hirschhorn said Judaism brought the teams together in spite of the rivalry.

“Of course there was rivalry and trash talk… but in the end we’re all Jews, and I think both teams remembered that,” said the Shalhevet senior.

From YULA’s perspective, Shalhevet was noted for sportsmanship — and a lack of insults.

YULA’s captain, Daniel Dahan, said the Firehawks had skill, and were not disrespectful in any way to the other team.

“They’re good — they didn’t talk trash talk or anything bad like that,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Firehawks spent the weekend of Oct. 20-22  at the Loma Linda flag football tournament in San Bernardino County, winning one out of their three games their against Seventh Day Adventist high schools.

The team finished the regular season undefeated, and their record was 7-0 in the regular season as of Oct. 24. However, the team has been eliminated from the playoffs, as they lost in the semifinals to De Toledo 28-0 on Oct. 26.