A celebration of deaf culture and the universal spirit of competition took place on the field of Fresno Christian Varsity Stadium on Friday night as the Eagles hosted California School for the Deaf.
The result, a 49-28 win for Fresno Christian, was only part of the story.
Not only were the CSD Eagles there, so, too, was referee Alexander Sanborn, a two-year veteran of the San Joaquin Valley Officials Association who also happens to be deaf.
The “way we looked at it, it’s a football game against some really tough competitors,” Fresno Christian coach Russ Counts said. “And then tonight, our referee was deaf, so it added to the flavor of this game and it really was quite an experience.”
Fresno Christian players learned some basic signs to greet the Eagles of Fremont. Then it was down to football.
“I’m happy to be part of it,” said Sanborn, of Fresno, adding he’s still learning and willing to admit his mistakes. “Even if you’re deaf, you have to pay attention the whole time, 360 degrees.”
Counts’ team improved to 6-4 with the nonleague victory. They are 4-0 in the Central Sierra League heading into the regular-season finale at Alpaugh next Saturday, but Counts wasn’t too focused on wins and losses Friday.
“It was fantastic to embrace that whole mechanism of football and a different world, I guess you would say,” Counts said. “the American Sign Language world.”