First place, undefeated: Meet the Southwest Squids

Working their way up the ranks of the league


Philipos Alebachew

Competing in the Esports Mountain Region league playoffs, the Southwest Squids celebrate their hard-earned win. Practicing since September, their hard work pays off. “What sets us apart from the other school teams is that we have a lot more power and a lot more strength as players,” junior Carl Reiner said. “I’m noticing that whenever we play the best teams the region has to offer, I’m just kind of disappointed. I felt like we would have a much bigger competition but it turns out we’re beating them with no more than eighty percent of our power.”

Kailie Sicolo, Staff Writer

Set in a post apocalyptic world where anthropomorphic marine animals run wild, the popular video game Splatoon 3 is a team based third-person shooting game where players compete in numerous game modes to dominate the competition. Running the first esports team here, Multimedia and Animation teacher Monte Carman has been coaching the Squids to help them win their playoff games as they move into the championship game on Tuesday, December 13. 

“I kind of had a suspicion that they would play well because I know Carl is a really good player,” Carman said. “I’m thrilled that they are placing as high as they are as it is their first year and they’re pretty much driving themselves. I’m more a facilitator than a coach for Splatoon because it’s a very complicated game that I just personally don’t play. I’ve played it a few times and it’s kind of chaotic and hard to follow, but I do what I can to coach them. I watch YouTube videos and give them suggestions from there.”

Acting as the captain of the team, junior Carl Reiner is an avid enthusiast of video games. After hearing about esports from Carman, Reiner knew for a fact that it was the right fit for him. 

“During animation class last year, I remember hearing him talk about esports, and then the word ‘Splatoon’ came out of his mouth and it instantly got my attention,” Reiner said. “I felt like I could finally show my power as a video gamer and the best way to do that was by playing my favorite video game. I feel really free playing a shooter game that has a lot of creativity, color, culture, and pride.”

Shocked with the level of difficulty that she’s experienced with past games, sophomore Kaori Hayashida believes that they have a very good chance of winning their championship games.

“It wasn’t as hard as I expected,” Hayashida said. “We’ve been playing against a bunch of other teams that range in skill. I wouldn’t say they’re bad, but they’re not as good as us. The amount of time that we all put in and the fact that three of us have been playing the game for a while makes me pretty confident that we’ll win.”

Playing since the first version of the game came out, sophomore Landon Tayag is glad he has the opportunity to play his favorite childhood game.

“I was in fourth grade when I played Splatoon 1,” Tayag said. “It was a very different shooter from all the other shooter games I played before. It looked interesting and fun, from the music, the story, the game play and the customizable options you could give your inkling or octling. I will definitely be playing this game as time goes on.”

Unlike other players on the team, freshman Nicolas Markwith, currently a backup for the Southwest Squids, learned how to play Splatoon to be on the esports team.

“I’ve always had a passion for playing video games competitively and it’s always been something I wanted to do,” Markwith said. “I’ve always been into shooter games, but this was my first time ever playing anything from the Splatoon franchise. I got into the hang of the same, and I will say that it’s shocking how fast I’ve gotten in a short period of time.”

Currently on standby, Markwith has significantly less game time than the other members do, but makes the most of it when he gets the opportunity to.

“Our second to last game was the last game I actually got to play with them,” Markwith said. “The first few rounds of the game we got absolutely destroyed. After that we had a lot more coordination and we became on point with everything. We were able to punish the other team when they did something dumb and it was just overall better play. Just to see that fast of a progression within such a short span of time made me feel happy.” 

Enjoying how close the team has become since it was created, freshman KJ Palacios has formed new bonds with all his teammates since he joined, despite being the youngest on the team. 

“The most awkward thing was definitely just the age difference, considering their years older than me,” Palacios said. “I thought that it would be a little more difficult because we didn’t have that many connections other than being on the same team. After spending hours playing together, we had to learn how to work together. Eventually we all got kind of used to being around each other and became good friends.” 

Proud of the team, Carman appreciates the bond the team has formed over the season and the overall success of his decision to bring esports to the school.

“I don’t actually get to see the other teams at other schools, but I know some of them play from a distance at home,” Carman said. “The entire team, even the other teams and the bench, have all formed a really strong bond. They all just work together and there’s a good deal of being able to swap players between each of the teams easily and still count on them to perform even though they’re playing with a completely different group.”