BARSTOW - Elia Fuimaono, Paul Clemmons and Richard Gonzalez began to ponder where credit lies for the Barstow High School football team's defensive resurgence after practice Wednesday.

The trio, half jokingly, came up with one possible answer - their girlfriends.
"The key to defense is the motivation," Fuimaono said.

For Barstow coach Jesse Ceniceros, the Aztecs defensive dominance has come from simplicity and a committed coach staff.

No matter what the reason, Barstow's defense is currently on top of the Desert Sky League going into tonight's game against Burroughs High School (1-5; 1-0 DSL).

The Aztecs are the only DSL team to give up less than 100 points with 95 so far this season. Barstow allows 15.8 points per game. Silverado is the only other team in the league to give up an average of less than 20 points with 19.5 points.

While the Aztecs are known for their double-wing offense, the defense has made major improvements from last season when it allowed an average of 27.5 points per game.

Ceniceros saw players looking confused rather than aggressive in 2006 and decided to take control of the defense himself, taking the defensive coordinator role this year. He started by cutting out parts of their scheme.

"We watered it down a little," Ceniceros said. "Kids were just confused. They were thinking too much out there rather than just playing football."

"We had a lot more calls last year," Fuimaono said. "We had different plays, and he liked to mix it up a lot with different calls. Now it's pretty much basic stuff."

While Ceniceros has eased off the technical aspects of the defense, his players have started to pick up on more details of reading plays before the snap.

"No one would listen to what the coach would tell us on defense (last year) - what to read and watch the cues and stuff," Clemmons said. "Now everyone does it, and things happen."

Ceniceros also made the decision to go with his best athletes on defense and offense, forcing most players to play both ways. The Aztecs tried to keep the two squads separate last season but did away with that philosophy this season.

Despite a sub-.500 record, the Aztecs (2-4; 1-0 DSL) have been out gaining their opponent in most games and limiting the big plays from opposing offenses.

Even in losses, the defense has kept Barstow in games. Hesperia came to Barstow averaging more than 30 points a game. The Scorpions struggled for field position during the first half and didn't score any points until the fourth quarter. Running back Gavin Santos slashed through the Barstow offense during the second half, but was held to mostly small gains despite accumulating 145 yards against Barstow.

Granite Hills quarterback Justin Dunford ran the Cougars option offense with the options of getting sacked or possibly pitching the ball out to one of his running backs on Friday. Granite Hills, which lost to Barstow 33-0, had the most success when Dunford took the ball himself and began running.

Dunford wasn't the first quarterback to struggle against the Aztecs. Barstow has been able to generate ample pressure on passers, most of the time without sending a blitz. When Fuimaono watched film of the Granite Hills game, he saw five or six of Aztecs around the ball at all times.