“The chocolate-chip cookie!” senior receiver Ryan Ojeda said. “I love the chocolate-chip cookie!” Welcome to one of the enduring traditions of high school sports – the football pre-game meal. Becky Cruz, mother of two Kaiser players, led a six-person crew of adults who served Mexican cuisine to players. She varies the meal each week throughout the season. The week before, it was hamburgers, Pre-game meals are about more than caloric intake. At Kaiser, Bruich considers players getting in line for the meal the kickoff of serious game-preparation. Bruich bans “any talk I can hear,” and the cafeteria is unusually quiet. At Redlands, coach Jim Walker also demands silence during the pre-game. “It’s time for them to get focused,” he said. At Kaiser, players accept without comment however much food is given them. They walk to tables, put down their dishes and stand at attention as long as 10 minutes – until every teammate is at a table. Bruich then announces to an assistant that is permissible to proceed. An assistant asks players to remove their caps, and a silent prayer precedes the meal. The amount of food consumed is monitored. Bruich doesn’t want players overeating. Nor does he want reserves getting seconds before starting offensive lineman do. Most schools still have a pre-game meal 3-4 hours before kickoff. At Los Osos, in Rancho Cucamonga, coach Tom Martinez said players contribute $5 each at the start of the season to help defray the cost of the meals, put on boosters. “Their favorite seems to be tri-tip,” he said. Others pay nothing, such as at Colton. “So many kids go without food, and they won’t tell you because they have a lot of pride,” coach Harold Strauss said. “This way, we know they’ve had something to eat.” Players also pay nothing at Bloomington, where Linda Markham, wife of coach Don Markham, prepares the pre-game. One recent week was lasagna from Costco. The pre-game meal remains a staple, but the menu has been reworked, reflecting more updated notions of useful nutrition a few hours before strenuous exercise. Forty or 50 years ago, steak-and-potatoes was thought to be the perfect pre-game meal. “It would be, if you ate the night before,” Colton’s Strauss said. “But that steak is so hard to digest. And it only takes one kid puking all over the field to really distract you.” Many coaches discourage most meat and milk products. Damien’s Morrison is one of the sticklers when it comes to ingredients. “Red meat and sodas are banned,” he said. “We like spaghetti with watered-down sauce. The carbo-load sort of thing. Things you can digest.” Not all prep programs follow the same schedule. John Tyree at Fontana’s A.B. Miller, prefers a pre-game breakfast. “Eating any closer to the game, it doesn’t do you any good,” he said. Morrison suggests dinners planned by coaches “are better than the kids going out and gorging themselves on double-doubles with cheese, which is what they would do.” Other coaches, such as John Monger at Chino, opt for a night-before team dinner. Some have no pre-game meal at all, because they prefer it that way. “When I was playing, I would overeat, and then you’ve got that lump in your stomach,” said Rich Imbriani, athletic director at San Bernardino’s Cajon HS. “Some years we don’t do the pre-game, and this is one of them.” Ryan Ojeda, the receiver at Kaiser, says “it’s cool” that someone comes in every Friday and feeds the team. He said the event is so highly anticipated that teammates begin talking about Friday’s meal no later than Thursday. “Guys start asking Gabriel and Mario Cruz what we’re going to have, because their mom is in charge,” Ojeda said. If Kaiser’s serving crew is any indication, the volunteers derive nearly as much satisfaction from the pre-game as do the players. “They’re good boys,” Becky Cruz said. “They always thank us and are so polite, and after it’s over a lot of them will give me a hug.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Almost as long as young men have gone off to play football they have prepared with a communal meal, eagerly consumed by players but usually paid for by sponsors, boosters or parents. “We’ve been doing it here as long as I’ve been around,” said Damien coach Scott Morrison, who goes back to 1979. “It’s part of our gameday ritual.” Oh, and football players tend to be hungry. “Any time I have food, they’re happy,” Kaiser coach Dick Bruich said. Reprising a scene played out across Southern California, Kaiser’s players chowed down Friday with the help of parents and boosters. FONTANA – It was 3:30 Friday afternoon, and more than 70 young men eagerly waited their turn in the Kaiser High School gymnasium to have their plates covered with pork, refried beans, rice … And a bit of dessert.