Anyone who has picked up a travel brochure or golf bag is likely familiar with Palm Springs. For many Southern California residents and snowbirds from the North, the sun-splashed community is almost like a second home.
But among the pristine fairways and sparkling swimming pools is a pretty successful high school football program. The Indians have won 23 consecutive home games heading into their showdown Friday night against visiting Rancho Verde in the Central Division championship game.
“We have a lot of good things going on in the desert and people just don’t realize that,” said Palm Springs coach Steve Fabian. “They think of it as more of a resort town.”
Don’t feel bad for the Indians. They have a loyal fan base that resides in town and shows up for games in droves. Fabian said the school is bringing in extra bleachers to accommodate both the home and visiting crowds.
Palm Springs officials have experience hosting championship games. This will be the fourth at the on-campus stadium in the last 13 years. They won the Eastern Division title in 2009 for the program’s only section title in the school’s 73-year history.
“We haven’t lost a home game in four years,” Fabian said. “That’s part of the pride.”
The run is impressive considering Fabian faces challenges unlike most Southland teams. Temperatures can approach 120 degrees when practice begins in August. Two years ago, it was 107 at kickoff for the season opener against Palm Desert. The two Desert Valley League schools have been forced to open the season against each other the last two years because they can’t find an opponent willing to travel out to the desert that time of year.
Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-40s for Friday night’s game.
“Almost an 80-degree difference,” Fabian said with a laugh. “It’s amazing when we think about it, but we try not to.”
The location of the Coachella Valley high schools allows Palm Springs to retain their top athletes and not risk losing them to the newer schools to the east.
This year’s group is led by three-year two-way starter Nick King, the team’s top running back, best receiver, shut down cornerback and punt returner. In a 42-14 quarterfinal victory against Chino two weeks ago, he rushed for a touchdown, caught two touchdown passes and had two interceptions.
“If we need a 35-yard field goal and our kicker is not available, Nick can do the job for us.” Fabian said. “He’s basically the jack-of-all-trades and he has been doing a super job.”
King has picked up a lot of slack from last season’s do-it-all player, Nephi Garcia, who now plays for College of the Desert. Garcia was similar to King except he played strong safety and also performed kicking duties for the Indians. King said he’s happy to fill as many of Garcia’s roles as possible, but also wants to leave a legacy of his own.
“A lot of what I do is a reflection of my team,” he said. “My team plays really good with each other, plays well for each other, and my success wouldn’t be anything without them.”
Rancho Verde also features a tight-knit group of athletes, many of whom were on last season’s top-seeded team that was upset by Colton in the Central Division final. King, linebacker/offensive lineman Kyle Lass and receiver Jordan White are among the Indians who played significant roles on the championship team two years ago.
And like they say on the golf course, it’s always easier when you’ve won before.