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Swanson: Warren-Downey rivalry lights up SoFi Stadium for the first time

Warren’s Madden Iamaleava runs the ball as they take on...

Warren’s Madden Iamaleava runs the ball as they take on rival Downey on Friday night at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Team captains for the Warren Bears and Downey Vikings watch...

Team captains for the Warren Bears and Downey Vikings watch the coin toss as the two teams get ready to play at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Downey and Warren squared off on Friday night at SoFI...

Downey and Warren squared off on Friday night at SoFI Stadium in Inglewood. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Warren and Downey fans start to fill the seats as...

Warren and Downey fans start to fill the seats as the two teams get ready to battle it out at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Warren’s JT Houston and Jordan Jones stop Downey’s Oscar Rios...

Warren’s JT Houston and Jordan Jones stop Downey’s Oscar Rios just short of the end zone as the Viking take on the Bears at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Downey’s Victor Morales runs the ball in for a Viking...

Downey’s Victor Morales runs the ball in for a Viking touchdown as they take on Warren at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Fans filled the seats as Downey and Warren battle it...

Fans filled the seats as Downey and Warren battle it out at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Warren’s Madden Iamaleava runs the ball as they take on...

Warren’s Madden Iamaleava runs the ball as they take on Downey at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Warren’s Jordan Ross scores for the Bears as they take...

Warren’s Jordan Ross scores for the Bears as they take on Downey at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

The Warren crowd cheers as they score against Downey at...

The Warren crowd cheers as they score against Downey at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Warren’s Jaylon Edmond is taken down as the Bears take...

Warren’s Jaylon Edmond is taken down as the Bears take on Downey at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Warren’s Jaylon Edmond races for the end zone as they...

Warren’s Jaylon Edmond races for the end zone as they take on Downey at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Downey’s Jake Felix tries to stop Warrens David Zaldana at...

Downey’s Jake Felix tries to stop Warrens David Zaldana at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Downey’s Victor Morales fumbles the ball against Warren at SoFi...

Downey’s Victor Morales fumbles the ball against Warren at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

The Downey crowd cheers as they score against Warren at...

The Downey crowd cheers as they score against Warren at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

The Warren football team takes on Downey at SoFi Stadium...

The Warren football team takes on Downey at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Downey’s Oscar Rios tries to run for yards as the...

Downey’s Oscar Rios tries to run for yards as the Vikings take on Warren at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Warren’s Jace Brown tries to gain some yards for the...

Warren’s Jace Brown tries to gain some yards for the Bears as they take on Downey at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Downey’s Jordan Arias tries to get to the end zone...

Downey’s Jordan Arias tries to get to the end zone as they take on Warren at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Downey’s Dante Sams tries to make the catch with Warrens...

Downey’s Dante Sams tries to make the catch with Warrens Mathew Williams in the way at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Warren’s Madden Iamaleava looks to get past Downeys Jordan Arias...

Warren’s Madden Iamaleava looks to get past Downeys Jordan Arias at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Warren’s Madden Iamaleava is stopped just short of the end...

Warren’s Madden Iamaleava is stopped just short of the end zone as they take on Downey at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Downey’s Oscar Rios just gets over the goal line for...

Downey’s Oscar Rios just gets over the goal line for a Viking touchdown as they take on Warren at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Downey’s Jordan Arias is stopped by Warrens Brady Jamieson just...

Downey’s Jordan Arias is stopped by Warrens Brady Jamieson just short of the end zone at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Downey fans pack the seats for the Downey vs. Warren...

Downey fans pack the seats for the Downey vs. Warren game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Warren’s Jordan Ross tries to make a leaping catch in...

Warren’s Jordan Ross tries to make a leaping catch in the end zone in their game against rival Downey on Friday night at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. With nearly 19,000 fans on hand, Warren and Downey became the first high school teams to play at the NFL stadium since it opened in 2020. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Downey’s Oscar Rios looks for an open teammate as they...

Downey’s Oscar Rios looks for an open teammate as they take on Warren at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Warren’s Julian Garcia tries to stop Downeys Oscar Rios as...

Warren’s Julian Garcia tries to stop Downeys Oscar Rios as the Bears take on the Vikings at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

The Warren football team takes on Downey at SoFi Stadium...

The Warren football team takes on Downey at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Warren defensive coordinator Nic Iamaleava hugs his son, quarterback Madden...

Warren defensive coordinator Nic Iamaleava hugs his son, quarterback Madden Iamaleava after they beat Downey at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

The Warren football team celebrates after it beat Downey at...

The Warren football team celebrates after it beat Downey at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Warren’s Jace Brown celebrates with the crowd their big win...

Warren’s Jace Brown celebrates with the crowd their big win over Downey at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Warren’s football team celebrates after it beat Downey at SoFi...

Warren’s football team celebrates after it beat Downey at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, on Friday, October 13, 2023. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

INGLEWOOD — Who’s ready for some Friday Night Stadium Lights?

The City of Downey, that’s who.

Because 18,815 supporters – which would be about 17% of the city’s population – made the trek to SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Friday night to see a new twist on one of Southern California’s juiciest rivalries: Downey and crosstown rival Warren became the first high school teams to play at the NFL stadium since it opened in 2020.

A grudge match with more than a half-century of history made more history Friday, and the Warren Bears made it six consecutive victories against the Vikings, with a 28-21 win in the Rams’ – and Chargers’ – House.

What was it like to play in an NFL stadium?

“Man, it felt great, a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Downey quarterback Oscar Rios, who couldn’t help but be energized, despite the loss – in which he completed 10 of 14 passes for 73 yards and rushed for a touchdown.

“Oh, it was amazing!” Warren senior running back Jacob Cano said after posing for photographs in the corner of the end zone after the game. “I’m honored to have had this experience.”

What was it like to coach?

“I felt like (Sean) McVay,” said Downey coach Jack Williams, referencing the Rams’ coach, who will be patrolling the same sideline on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

Said Warren’s Kevin Pearson: “I’m a Rams fan – I shed a tear when they came back and I saw the blue and gold uniforms – so to be able to play here? I was a little bit overwhelmed when I first came out.”

And to watch?

“It’s crazy how a high school football game is being played at a professional football stadium,” said Warren senior Jeremy Ramirez, a senior on the track team. “It’s a fun experience – Oh! Ohhh!”

Ramirez lost his train of thought because Madden Iamaleava (23-of-28 passing for 195 yards and four touchdowns) connected with Darius Maddox for a 17-yard touchdown to tie the score at 7-7, and the Warren student section – aka “The Cave” away from home – went wild.

My view of this: https://t.co/RzaU1nejaK pic.twitter.com/vevTq9fh5d

— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) October 14, 2023

The setting stopped being novel between the lines: “We have a saying,” Pearson said, “‘It’s not who you play, it’s how you play.’ But here it was, ‘it’s not where you play, it’s how you play.”

Otherwise, it was definitely different, seeing all the trappings of a high school football contest transported inside of the expansive, state-of-the-art SoFi Stadium.

It was something of a glorious hassle. A chaotic honor. A sensory-overloading thrill.

Cheerleaders did their thing; fans chanted; both sides – Downey’s cardinal-wearing fans were on the east side of the stadium, Warren’s supporters in blue on the west – moaned when calls didn’t go their way.

It took a while for everyone to find a seat and settle down, and even longer in line for concessions, but all those fans – who paid $35 apiece for tickets, with the exception of students and fans, who paid $15 – filled the lower bowl to the brim and created a horseshoe of humanity on the second deck.

There wasn’t a scoreboard for down and distance, nor were there any sideline reporters, because they all were relegated to a suite-turned-press box four stories up. There also wasn’t any alcohol, or the thumping jock jams that reverberate through the building during Rams and Chargers games.

But there was a ton of support, and it was plenty loud. There was even a first-quarter wave. It was the perfect matchup for a prep premiere at SoFi. Because the city of Downey takes this rivalry between the schools – located about a mile apart – seriously. Last year, approximately 10,000 fans showed up to watch quarterback Nico Iamaleava lead Warren to a 49-22 win at home over Downey, which learned from that loss and went on to win the CIF-SS Division 4 championship.

And there were all variety of partisan T-shirts on Friday by students and alumni, family members and friends and faculty. One popular blue shirt worn by Warren supporters listed all 34 of the Bears’ previous victories over Downey (6-2 this season), dating back to 1916’s 14-0 victory. And maybe the most popular shirt among Vikings fans put it succinctly: “Friends Don’t Let Friends Wear Blue.”

The game was the first of a Friday Night Lights series that will be hosted by the L.A. Bowl, the college bowl game that will feature the Mountain West Conference champion against the Pac-12’s No. 5 finisher on Dec. 16. With the win, Warren (6-2) receives an invite to be honored at that game.

On Friday, the honor was in playing, after which Bears tackle Rogelio Baca made his way toward the stands in the north end zone, finding his family and shouting up at them, on behalf of everyone who participated: “Thank you for coming.”

pic.twitter.com/7QZfl7DWBU

— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) October 14, 2023



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