It’s third down and inches
at the end of a close
In most stadiums, the home team would be at its loudest to encourage the defense, as the game hangs in the balance. But at the Indiana School for the Deaf, all is quiet — the cheerleaders, fans, players and majority of the coaches don’t utter a word.
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Make no mistake: They might be quiet, but the stadium is filled to capacity.
The defense goes through its reads on the running back and quarterback, and communicates to one another via sign language to anticipate the play.
Pads clash and the ball is snapped as the Indiana Deaf defense stops the run to seal a win as the referees flail their arms to indicate play is over.
Seymour native C. W. Raby has attended the Indiana School for the Deaf, a private institution in Indianapolis, since
The junior has played football for six years, since middle school, and starts as a defensive tackle for the Deaf Hoosiers.
This season, Indiana Deaf finished 7-3, a huge accomplishment for a team that typically suits up 26 players for gridiron battles.
Raby had 23 total tackles and a fumble recovery in 2014.
“It’s a good experience for me,” Raby signed through an interpreter. “Playing defensive tackle is my favorite. I like contact and getting to the quarterback. I like the defensive formations. On defense, I need to read the quarterback and the rushers. I watch and focus on them. I just like tackling and hitting.”
Since 1995, Indiana Deaf has had just two winning seasons. In 2007, the squad finished with its best record in school history, 9-3, and advanced to the third round of sectional.
In 2012, first-year football coach Garrett Wooten inherited a program in distress: The team hadn’t won a game in three seasons.
The 2010 season was disastrous for the Deaf Hoosiers. The school faced a hazing incident in which two coaches were fired and a number of players were given suspensions.
Wooten helped get the team back on track. In his first season, the Deaf Hoosiers went 1-9, followed by a 5-5 season in 2013, before going 7-3 this past season.
“(Wooten) is very disciplined; he’s a good disciplinarian for the team,” Raby signed. “We don’t play around. He’s very serious about the fundamentals.”
Wooten encouraged Raby to participate in other sports for the school.
“Coach Wooten kind of encouraged me to wrestle after football,” Raby signed. “A lot of it is still weightlifting, which helps me on the football field.”
During the week, Raby attends the school and lives on campus. On the weekends, he returns home to Seymour to be with his family.
Like most other teams, the Deaf Hoosiers start their football season weeks before the start of games. The team does two-a-days through the summer heat.
The team plays its games on both Fridays and Saturdays.
The Deaf Hoosiers typically will play away games on Saturdays and travel across the country, to states such as Maryland and Alabama, to face other deaf schools.
“Mornings are hard, but you just have to get used to it,” Raby signed. “If we have a game on Saturday, we will sometimes have practices in the mornings before games. If it’s a Friday, we will make sure we’re ready before school, too.”
The Deaf Hoosiers also play teams that don’t have deaf players.
“We sign with each other during games,” Raby signed. “I feel like we have a little advantage against teams that don’t know sign language. Our defensive coach, Andy (Alka), can hear, so he will help us. If he sees something he will tell us so we can take advantage of that. It helps to have that on the field.”
Alka stresses the importance of focus in games and pushes his kids to have vision on the field, Raby signed.
“(Alka) told me he wants me to watch the other team and their plays,” Raby signed. “He wants me to key in on what they’re doing and read their expressions and how they line up. During practice, he shows us how a team will work after watching video of the team.”
Practices consist of working on offensive and defensive schemes to prepare the Deaf Hoosiers for their games.
“First, coach (Wooten) will come and call us all together,” Raby signed. “When I first started, I wasn’t used to all the equipment. The team will go outside and practice. We review the games and work on offense and defense. We will start practicing two weeks before school.”
The goal for the Deaf Hoosiers is to win a deaf-school national championship.
“We need to play hard and make a good effort next year,” Raby signed. “Next year, I’m going to be very serious about the defense. I want to be national champions — that’s my goal for the team.”
Heading into his senior year, Raby hopes to command the defense.
“I feel like I’m a leader on the defense,” Raby signed. “We have a really good team spirit. Everybody pumps each other up and makes sure we’re ready. We’re a close group of guys.”