On September 12, 2015, the Toads played their first game of the 2015 season against the Pathranagat Valley Panthers from Nevada. This very small school from a very small town amazingly holds the title for the nation’s longest active high school football winning streak: eighty-one games. The Panthers took an early lead 14-0, using an aggressive attack, which stalled the Toads’ offense. But the Thacher players pushed back, taking a 16-14 lead on a long run by Laurence, a junior. Word on the sidelines went that it was the first time in three years that the Panthers had been behind. The game continued with strong play by both teams, but by halftime the Panthers came back with a 26-16 lead, and later sealed a win.“The game was great. We lost 34-30, but it was a big step forward for us and I was most pleased,” said Coach Hooper.
That game was a harbinger of a very solid season for a team in the midst of rebuilding. The high spirits and hope built during training camp couldn’t change the fact that Coach Hooper had a young and inexperienced team that still had some growing to do. But throughout the season, the boys stepped up to one challenge after another. In league play, Thacher beat opponents Villanova, Laguna Blanca, and Orcutt Academy. The only loss came from old rivals Cate, who went on to reclaim the league championship. Still, the Toads moved into the playoffs with a respectable 5-3 record and cleared the first round with a commanding 52-14 win against Calvary Chapel of Downey. Leading the day for the team was Laurence, who set a Thacher record with five receiving touchdowns totaling 194 yards. That win set up a rematch with Faith Baptist of Canoga Park, familiar foes. The Toads had defeated them earlier in the year in a 36-30 home victory. But this time the hard fought back-and-forth battle did not go their way. The Toads came up short, losing 28-20. But the boys had battled to the end and, despite numerous injuries, they never gave up.
Ultimately, it was another season of hard work, selflessness, camaraderie, and growth. And the cycle continues: A strong group of juniors are set to return in 2016 as seniors to take up their duties as leaders of the squad. Once back in Ojai’s August heat, Coaches Hooper, Snyder, and Thomas will put them through their paces, where it will become obvious who grew, or practiced, or put on muscle over the summer. And everybody will be eager to see what talents the new batch of recruits might bring. Then, together, they’ll set their eyes on recapturing the magic of that 2014 season.