The Only Jewish High School Football Team In America

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Here is a somewhat shocking fact. There is only one Jewish high school in all of the United States that boasts a full 11-man tackle football team. Here is another fact: In their first season with an 11-man team, the San Diego Jewish Academy Lions are 6-2, and are heading to the playoffs this Saturday night.

I thought I’d ask Athletic Director Charlie Wund, Coach John Milisitz, and star quarterback Joseph Mizrachi about what it’s like to be on such a unique team.

MyJewishLearning: How long has the team been around?

Charlie Wund: The school itself is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The high school has been around for 10 or 11 years. The football team is only eight years old. This is actually the first year that we’ve moved to an 11-man football team. In the past, we’ve used an eight man team. We officially entered a league and a conference that has made us eligible for the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) Playoffs, which we’re playing in this Saturday night.

Tell me a little about your school. How many students? What type of Jewish day school is it?

Joseph Mizrahi: We’re a pluralistic Jewish school. There aren’t a lot of kids here. There’s around 185 kids in the high school.

With only 185 kids in the school, how many people are on the football team?

Mizrachi: Our football team has about 25 kids. A lot of them are freshmen or rookies who have never played football before. We basically had to spend the entire year teaching them how to play.

Coach, what type of challenges have you had with this team, with a small team?

John Milisitz: I would say three quarters of my team didn’t know how to put on their pads the first time.

They remind me of the movie Little Giants.

Milisitz: Actually, our team is big. We have four guys that are 250+. And we have some really good athletes. We’re really fast. It was easy to teach them because of that. Football is different from other sports that, if you’re athletic, and your team has a good quarterback and running attack, it’s easy to pick up.