PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — One Palm Beach County high school football team not only played out of the district on Friday night, they played out of the state of Florida.
The Santaluces Community High School Chiefs traveled to Louisiana for their first-ever game outside the Sunshine State.
Hector Clavijo, the team's second-year head coach, wanted the players to know there’s more to football than just the action on the field. That’s why he packed his team up to head to the Big Easy.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Education
They play together, they eat together, and now, they travel together.
"I feel like I’m in the NFL, really, to be honest," Santaluces wide receiver Jamar Browder said about the team's out-of-state football game on Friday. "I tried to keep it cool, but on the inside, I was happy. I'm really just gonna be happy to go with my teammates and have a good coach right next to me."
That coach is Clavijo.
"I think there’s a lot more to football than just the neighborhood games," Clavijo said.
So Clavijo set the Friday matchup against John Curtis Christian School, just outside of New Orleans.
"It's giving back to the kids, giving them an experience they’ve never been able to have," Clavijo said. "And that’s what we’re here for. Not only to teach them how to play the game, but also, let’s do a little exploration and have a little fun somewhere else."
"I think it’s really special," Santaluces player Amir Gibson said. "Not many teams get to do this, so I’m just really grateful that Coach Hector gave us this opportunity."
And the Chiefs not only played football. They toured college campuses, and many of them flew for the first time.
"There will be a lot of sightseeing and Bourbon Street, and they’ll be able to say, hey, I was there once. I was there with my buddies. I was there with my coach and teammates. And that’s something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives," Clavijo said.
"Show those boys in New Orleans what we got," said Santaluces freshman kicker Cristian Clavijo, the head coach's younger brother.
It's a family affair for Clavijo.
"He does a great job treating me no differently than anybody else," Cristian Clavijo said.
The Chiefs know the trip will bring them closer together.
"The team bonding is gonna be even more team chemistry," Browder said. "And imagine next year, we got all the same guys. It’s really gonna be like we’re brothers."
"Really spend some quality time with the guys and get to know them more and just show them there’s more to life than just West Palm Beach," Coach Clavijo said.
The trip was paid for through fundraising, ticket sales, and a stipend from the opposing team. So the Santaluces High School players did not have to pay anything out of pocket for this special experience.