On game nights not too long ago, the blue and white of the Titans would blanket the San Marino High bleachers. The ritual often extended into the playoffs, once stretching into 14 weeks as the team reached the championship game.
“It’s what you did Friday nights,” said D.R. Moreland, the school’s rookie coach who played Titan football from 1987 to 1991. “The whole town shut down.”
But as Moreland looks out onto the field as his players practice this summer, he sees a changed community—where the demands of football aren’t often aligned with the aspirations and expectations of the San Gabriel Valley’s Asian immigrant families. To them, football is as familiar as competitive badminton is to most Americans.
“For Asians, it’s never been about football,” said Alex Chen, a sleek, 5-foot-6, 130-pound senior taking a break during a recent practice. “It’s always been about other sports like tennis or volleyball.”
The 17-year-old is aware of San Marino’s glorious gridiron past: the nine consecutive playoff appearances beginning in 1987, the successes of the late ‘70s and the championships in the 1950s. It may be impossible to reach such heights again, he said.
“We’re outsized and out-strengthed,” he said. “Asian parents don’t support sports, especially at San Marino. It’s always been about education. That’s why we’re dropping in [the California Interscholastic Federation]. It’s majority Asian in San Marino.”