Football: San Gabriel calls it “The Matador Walk.”

Above: San Gabriel’s majestic entrance is a thing of beauty.

I meant to write this story for the paper this week but I just couldn’t get to it in time so here it is on the blog.

San Gabriel, in my opinion, has one of the coolest entrances to a footbal stadium. I first witnessed this in the opener against Muir and I was really taken by surprise. I enjoyed it because, hey, what Mexican doesn’t like mariachi music. The crowd went wild and Muir looked on wondering what was going on. Can you imagine the look on the other team’s faces? Maranatha also saw this when it played at San Gabriel in the playoff opener.

If you haven’t been to a San Gabriel home game, press play on the YouTube video I posted and picture this:

The mariachi music comes on as the football players are met with a roaring applause. They march in a single line from the top of the home stands, in between the boosters sitting on the 50-yard line and proceed down onto the field. It’s usually Vicente Fernandez’s music blaring from the speakers. On any given home game they’ll play one of his most popular songs. From “Duelo a Caballo” to, one of my personal favorites, “El Rey.”

So how did it start?

It started three years ago during San Gabriel’s homecoming game. There were pre-game fetivities on the field, so the Matadors thought they would warm-up on an adjacent field and then head to the locker before making their way back onto the field.

One problem: The gates to get back onto the field were locked. A quick check at another gate also revealed a locked gate. Keith Jones, the head coach at the time, had left his keys in the locker room, so the Matadors had no choice but to walk up and enter the stadium where fans make their way onto the home bleachers. San Gabriel proceeded to march down the bleachers closest to the scoreboard.

“Everyone started going nuts,” Jude Oliva recalled. “They went nuts because it was homecoming and they thought we planned some kind of special entrance.”

Oliva’s mind went to work.

“I had seen where the University of Clemson came down in very similar fashion, through the tunnel and down the hill,” Oliva said. “The fans were surrounding them and giving them a lot of love. I approached coach Jones and told him it’d be cool if we came through the middle of the stands where the boosters sit, close to the 50-yard line.”

The kids then asked for a soundtrack to their march, and the boosters took it from there.

“We saw how La Habra enters with what the Blue Man Group does with fire extinguishers,” Oliva said. “We added a fog machine and adding to it every week.”

So how did San Gabriel settle on mariachi music this season?

“A lot of our kids and coaches are Latinos and grew up in the Latino culture,” Oliva explained. “We all love mariachi so that seemed natural. The kids thought it’d be cool to come down like boxing prize fighters.”

San Gabriel is predominantly Latino, with the exception of Mackenzie Ferro, Maurice Le, Donald Toung, Quy Thong, Jimmy Nguyen and twins Wayne and Daniel Pollock.

Ferro, a senior linemen, grew up his whole life with senior wide receiver Alex Villalobos, so he embraces the Latino culture.

“And I know we have a few Asian kids,” Oliva says, “But they always tell me, ‘Coach, I know we’re Asian but we have a brown heart.'”

No way Monrovia plays mariachi for San Gabriel on Saturday, but if the Matadors pull off the biggest upset in school history, don’t be surprised if they’re marching back to the bus singing in full-lung capacity “….pero sigo siendo El Reeeeeeeey”

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  • A reader

    I’m not one to comment on these blogs but I do read them and as I read this week it seemed like everyone writing was trying their best to make San Gabriel look like the poor little kids from the other side of the tracks who deserved to win more than Monrovia. Sorry but our team has it’s share of hard luck cases and most Monrovians don’t live up in the hills and have a lot of money. Some of our kids have overcome far more this year than you will ever know because some of the stories are not going to be told. I loved the crowd, the stadium and the feeling at the San Gabriel game last week, so I’m not trying to take away from what they are doing. I just think this pushing of the “Cinderella” story, and the constant comments about how cool it would be if they “pulled off the upset” is unfair to the other team. Please keep in mind that both teams are full of kids who have overcome adversity and want more than anything to win Saturday night. This game is about them, not the readers. Your stories shouldn’t be written with the hope of selling papers or getting blog hits. Keep all the players in mind. Regardless of whether they have a sad story to tell or have lives that are seemingly perfect, they play with their hearts and will feel just as much pride in winning or just as much pain in losing Saturday night. Thanks.

  • Dena Dog

    Yeah, if you’re Mexican……I hope SG wins, but we can do without the mariachi national anthem…..