JUST PREPS : Pius X Struggles to the Last Quarter

Pius X High in Downey plays football Friday night for what many expect to be the last time.

What a sad final chapter it will be.

The Catholic school merged with St. Matthias High earlier this year and will become an all-girls’ school by 1998. When the Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced its plan last spring, most of the school’s top athletes transferred.

No sport was hit harder than football. Those who remained worked out together over the summer, but there were only 12 players left by the start of the season. With barely enough to field a team, the school canceled the nonconference schedule.


Coaches spent September recruiting players, and when they got up to 25 they decided to make a go of it. It hasn’t been easy.

Although Pius X had not been a football power lately, this season will be one everyone tries to forget. Heading into their finale against Murphy, the Warriors are 0-6 in the Santa Fe League and have been outscored, 271-0.

Their best chance at a victory--or even to score--was against Bellarmine-Jefferson three weeks ago, but they lost, 12-0.

For the coaches and players, it has been a season of futility. Those who have stuck it out have been made fun of and ridiculed by classmates.

“This is the saddest thing I have ever seen,” said James Oliden, an assistant coach who played football at the school from 1987 to ’90. “When I walk through the hallways, I don’t see the pride that used to be here. Football used to be a big deal, something important for the school. That is gone.”

Oliden is volunteering his time in hopes that some players will realize not everyone has given up on them.

Juan Ochoa, a team captain, admits sticking it out hasn’t been easy. A junior, he returned to the school because he wanted to finish what he started.

“This is where I spent my first two years of high school, and I didn’t want to have to start over somewhere else,” he said. “Keeping football alive here was a goal, and despite our record, I’m glad we were able to do it for at least one more year.”

Like most of the remaining 18 players, Ochoa goes both ways and plays on special teams. Playing the whole game is part of the challenge. He said keeping everyone’s spirits up is another part.

After last week’s 68-0 loss to Cathedral, Oliden said there wasn’t a lot you could say to the team.

“Let me tell you, these guys go out every week and give it their all,” he said. “They leave their heart on the field every game, and it’s difficult when we’re the only ones who realize all that’s going on. It’s easy for those on the outside to criticize.”

Ochoa said despite the results, he hopes the school can field a team next season. But with no new boys being admitted, the player pool continues to dwindle.

Bob Santisteven, who has taught at the school for 14 years and is the athletic director, doesn’t hold out much hope. He said one option may be eight-man football.

“Many of the top boys have left for other Catholic schools in the area, he said. “I’m not sure what our athletic future here is.”

Pius X opened in 1954 and hit its attendance peak in the early 1980s with 1,200 students. That dwindled to below 500 when the decision to make it an all-girls’ school was made.

There will be a boys’ basketball team this year, but baseball is up in the air.

For football, the end may be Friday night, which is homecoming. Probably the last one.