M. Terry/SFVS Staying Grounded — Chatsworth seniors (l-r) Mo Singh, Nicholas Gutierrez, Steve Velazquez and Tommy An remain levelheaded about their football success this season.

Deep into his conversation about football, Chatsworth Charter High Coach Marvin Street starts reminiscing about being born and raised in Pacoima, but winding up going to middle school and high school in Chatsworth and seeing a whole new world.

“At that time it was more of an upper-middle class and upper class type of school,” said Street, who graduated from here in 2000. “And having the opportunity to integrate with the kids who were living there then…I’d go to their homes, and I learned, ‘Oh you can have a big backyard, and have more than one bedroom.’”

He would realize later in his life that a light had been turned on for him, that he was seeing what was possible if he was willing to work hard and apply himself.

It’s a lesson Street said he’s never forgotten or stopped trying to teach others if they’re willing to listen.

It’s what makes the football field a great laboratory for Street’s sensibilities and pursuit of practical application. Football demands hard work and sacrifice individually and collectively, no matter who you are or where you come from. And even when you do everything right, it doesn’t guarantee something won’t go wrong.

But you can see what is possible.

Still, what’s happening at Chatsworth right now — a 5-1 overall record going into this week’s game against Granada Hills Charter High — might not have seemed possible this fall to outsiders. Not after four consecutive losing seasons before going 2-2  in the truncated spring season of 2020. And not by depending heavily on a power-running, occasional-pass style of play that requires cohesion and indomitable will from all 11 offensive players — not to mention countless hours and attention to detail in the weight room.

“Obviously I’d like to throw the ball more,” Street said. “But with all that’s on my plate, and the limited amount of resources, I have to do what’s best for our team. And running the ball works best for us.”

Street isn’t kidding about a ‘full plate.’  After working 15 years in the field of applied behavioral analysis, he decided to come back into education. He’s taking classes on Mondays to become a full-time teacher. He also works at evening study halls for students at Chatsworth Monday through Thursday to help those academically ineligible become eligible for sports, or help those seeking to raise their grade point averages to have more options for college.

And, of course, there’s coaching the game.

“Football is cool to me,” Street said. “But getting these kids a skill set to persevere through a crisis is more important to me than the game. The ‘Xs’ and ‘Os’ and winning will come as a result of them feeling more confident and comfortable in their personal lives.”

The message has been received and internalized by this year’s team.

“He has a lot of different connections with people,” Steve Velazquez, 17, a senior who plays on the offensive and defensive lines, said of Street. “And he doesn’t just coach football, he coaches life. He’s taught me that you have to keep pushing; that not everyone in the world is going to care about you, but don’t make excuses. And show up to practice.”

Tommy An, a senior who plays receiver and safety, adds how Street and his coaches’ insistence on being disciplined and maintaining a consistent work ethic is paying off for the Chancellors.

“It’s made us,” said An, 17. “We don’t have a bunch of talent, but we work hard and that’s the identity of our football team.

“I feel like our bond as a team, from everything we’ve gone through together, has grown. That it’s established a culture here; we play as a team and we win or lose as a team. That’s how it is.”

Seniors like An and Velazquez, as well as teammates Nicholas Gutierrez and Mo Singh, did have some success as sophomores, playing on the junior varsity team that had a winning season. But JV success doesn’t always carry over to the varsity level — particularly when you play a no-frills type of offense like Chatsworth.

Gutierrez, 17, the quarterback, has grown to appreciate the physical game the Chancellors have thrived on so far. With everyone being on the same page and pulling in the same direction, he said it feels like the team always has a chance to compete now.

That was apparent in last week’s victory over Taft High. Despite the Toreadors bolting to an early 14-0 lead, the Chancellors did not deviate from their approach and mindset, and outscored Taft the rest of the way, 33-7.

“We know that even if we’re down, we have to stay calm and collected,” Gutierrez said. “We can’t buckle under pressure. And once we get rhythm together, we get going.

“So I wasn’t worried about us not getting into rhythm. We have a lot of good linemen and a lot of good backs; it’s easy to be patient with this team.”

Singh agreed.

“I feel our team has a lot of grit and grime in us,” said the 17-year-old offensive and defensive lineman. “We know we can come back. I feel our team is that cohesive, and we know that anything can happen in a football game. So we didn’t put our heads down (against Taft); we kept on fighting.”

Words and views that will make their coach proud. Words and views he hopes to espouse and teach at Chatsworth for a long time.

“My philosophy is ‘stay loyal to the soil,’” Street said. “I’m completing my fourth year [being back at] Chatsworth, and it is the school that gave me a different perspective on life.”