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SAN DIEGO — The football team at Scripps Ranch High School has tied a school record with eight wins this season but in the classroom, they have set the bar and grade point average even higher.

The Falcons football team  knows what it takes to win.

“It’s just all hard work,” said junior wide receiver Riley Merrigan. “This off-season we all put in the work, day in and day out. Summer we were here almost everyday.”

Those long hours are paying off. The Falcons have won all eight of their games and are inching closer to claiming a league title for the first time in 25 years.

“Somehow we convinced them that if they worked hard enough, did the right things, they could achieve anything,” said head coach Marlon Gardinera. “That’s all you want as a coach, convince the kids that they’re capable of more.”

For third-year head coach Gardinera, that meant raising the bar in the classroom.

“I changed the GPA requirement from 2.0, which is the CIF standard, to 3.0,” he said. “If you don’t have one, you can’t play for me. And then I said, well you can’t have a “C” anymore. If you have a “C”, you don’t need to practice football anymore, you need to practice school.”

The message was loud and clear as the Falcons now share a combined team GPA of 3.71.

“Like Coach Marlon tells us, football is a small part of your life and that every time you come out, this play could be your last so you need something fall back on, like your grades,” said Merrigan, who owns a 4.8 GPA.

The benchmark is important for several reasons, but No. 1 being the fact that 3.6 is the magic number to start receiving academic scholarships to some of the top smaller schools in the country.

“Late nights, lots of sugar, lots of tea, a lot of caffeine,” said Merrigan. “But it’s just mainly hard work like I said. Everything we do out here comes back to hard work and determination.”

A culture at Scripps Ranch that demands excellence both on and off the field.

“The same work it takes to be successful on the field, it requires to be successful in the classroom and since I don’t negotiate with kids and we demand their absolute best all the time, they should go hand in hand,” said Gardinera.

The Falcons play Patrick Henry for first place in the City League Friday night.