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Paly vs. Los Gatos game revives old rivalry, sparks new tension

JT Barnett/The Campanile

As the football team prepared to play against Los Gatos in October, a mass of students burst through the Ray Field gates, filling the grandstands to the brim. Opening kickoff was met with a roar of applause, and the Los Gatos offensive unit ran onto the field to loud chants of “F-L-G! F-L-G!,” meaning “F— Los Gatos”. Even as Los Gatos pulled away to a dominant 49-0 win, loud cheers from a raucous student section continued to reign down. Over the last few years, these matchups between Paly and Los Gatos have morphed from a friendly competition into a rivalry marred by aggression and misconduct. 

 The game was a combination of a Paly-Los Gatos rivalry game and a homecoming game to cap off spirit week. Senior Defensive End Adrian Faust said this led to a unique atmosphere.

“The crowd was insane; it was super high energy,” Faust said. “Not the result we wanted, but it was really fun to go out and play football.”

According to Athletic Director and Football Coach Nelson Gifford, the teams have been playing each other in league play for almost thirty years.

“There’s always been a rivalry between the teams, because we’ve always been competitive for championships and league titles in a multitude of sports,” Gifford said. “But there’s been a lot of emotional stuff between the fans recently.”

Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson attributes the increased tension in recent years to social media.

“There was a lot of smack talking going on on social media,” Berkson said. “Basketball season was when it really peaked, and there was a confrontation. That carried over into football season, and back into basketball season.”

Paly-Los Gatos games are much more high-intensity than other matchups, according to recently graduated soccer player Leo Malchin.

“We went into games knowing it would be physical and heated,” Malchin said. “That expectation really fueled it, and I’m sure they felt the same way. It’s like that in every sport.”

Malchin said the intensity of the rivalry goes back as far as he can remember, including when his older siblings attended Paly.

In 2019, administrators made the decision to temporarily ban students from all rivalry matchups due to unruly behavior at basketball and football games. 

“There were some incidents that happened during basketball that made having fans untenable between the two schools,” Gifford said. “There was a concern at the time that the environment was getting too negative, that it was no longer about friendly competition but about attacking the other team.”

 Students are now allowed back at the games, but administrators are quick to shut down the infamous “FLG” chant. 

“It’s classless, and students have to understand this is not a college atmosphere,” Berkson said. “It’s great to cheer your team, but when you start getting on the other team, the only thing that can happen is bad problems. If it starts happening again, we’ll have to clamp down again.”

But for many students, the negative chants can add to the excitement and entertainment value of the rivalry. 

“In the context of a sports game, if I were on the field, it would just make it more exciting for me,” Malchin said. “That’s just the way sports are.”

According to Faust, the Paly-Los Gatos rivalry always holds a very special significance.

“It’s a rivalry game, so it feels very important,” he said. “People are a lot more competitive on both sides.”

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