La Jolla High football and water polo teams ‘Tangle in the Tank’ to net $6,000 for breast cancer research

Members of the La Jolla High School football team cheer on their teammates in the pool during the 2021 "Tangle in the Tank."
Members of the La Jolla High School varsity football team cheer on their teammates in the pool during the 2021 “Tangle in the Tank” against the school’s varsity boys water polo team.
(Stephanie Montion Marquez)

The return of the “Tangle in the Tank” — a water polo match pitting the La Jolla High School varsity boys water polo team against the varsity football team — raised a lot this year: awareness, spirits and more than $6,000 for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation.

The game was held Sept. 30 at the Coggan Family Aquatic Complex. To level the playing field, every goal scored by the football team was worth seven points (like a touchdown); goals scored by the water polo team were worth one point each. As such, the football team came out on top, 28-26.

“It’s the first time they won in a few years,” water polo coach Tom Atwell joked. “They did a good job, it was fun. There is a lot of ego at stake, a lot of bragging rights, so [the water polo team] tried to bring their A game and they put up 26 goals, but it wasn’t quite enough.”

Coach Tom Atwell (in white) gives direction to the La Jolla High boys water polo team during the "Tangle in the Tank."
(Stephanie Montion Marquez)

“It took a lot of luck,” football coach Tyler Roach said. “There was not a lot skill on display, although we had a few guys that carried the load. We had one legit play and looked like a water polo team for about 30 seconds. But it was a fun game. I definitely have a lot of respect for Coach Atwell.”

Chuckles aside, the event honored a water polo player’s mother who is battling breast cancer.

“She dropped the ball in the water to start the game, and she was the reminder of what we’re fighting for as a group of student-athletes,” Atwell said. “She’s one of our own and a great example of courage, strength and a positive attitude.”

Players battle it out during the "Tangle in the Tank" fundraiser.
(Stephanie Montion Marquez)

Atwell and Roach, both of whom are cancer survivors, said the event means a lot to them.

“When I was battling cancer, I saw the community rally around us,” Atwell said. “I know these guys are family to me, and they realize that games are important, but it’s our relationships that matter, and … to see them push the fundraising and putting their effort into this means a lot to me.”

Atwell had cancer three times in the past 28 years. The first was an aggressive and rare kind called histiofibrocytoma, a soft-tissue sarcoma.

Roach, who battled an aggressive form of testicular cancer, just celebrated 10 years since he was declared cancer-free.

“It’s always an awesome deal, but I remind the guys it’s so much bigger than just a game,” Roach said. “Any opportunity to branch out and have coaching moments about life is what we want. That’s what this was. We also have a platform, as small or large as it might be, to make a difference, and they know that.” ◆