This fall, the Lakers, Southwest High School's football team, celebrated its first victory after a string of 31 losses (through four seasons) with Mayor R.T. Rybak on the field at 3414 W. 47th St. on Oct. 6, which he declared “Southwest Lakers Football Day.”
The team's homecoming triumph against Edison High School, 700 22nd Ave. N.E. on Sept. 23 was hard-earned - not because of rivalry between the two schools, but because it symbolized a turnaround for the Lakers.
After the Edison triumph, the Lakers racked up two road wins, over Crosby-Ironton (31-8) and St. Paul Arlington (58-24) to finish the season 3-6. Principal Bill Smith said, “It's very exciting. Our sports teams have the highest grades in the area but that doesn't mean that it's OK to have bad sports teams.”
Throughout the last several years, the football program has retained few students. Currently, just three of 64 kids are seniors.
He added that the brunt of a losing streak pressures students. “For kids, it's tough when they hear all of these clichs [about success] and they don't see the results in a positive manner. It's easy to get down on yourself. This has reaffirmed that there's a possibility of success if you keep at it.”
Smith said that Southwest is lucky to have a head coach, Sean McMenomy, who also works in the school as a social studies teacher. That provides a built-in motivator, he said. Hopefully, most of the team will return next year, he said.
Another Southwest school, Washburn High, dominated the city conference, finishing 6-0 on its way to a 7-3 record this year.