BARSTOW - The Barstow Riffians marked an important milestone on Saturday.

The Riffians, a minor league football team, celebrated their one year birthday during an awards banquet and symposium at Ruby's Restaurant. The team got their start when they held their initial tryouts last January. The Riffians will hold tryouts on January 19 at Stringham Park this year. They finished their inaugural season with a 2-8 record, but nearly won several close games. The team was heavily affected by injuries last season. The Riffians will participate in an arena football tournament on April 12 and begin the regular season this summer.

Although the team had a losing record, Riffian owner Desiree Morrison is looking forward to next season.

"I'm glad that last season went as well as it did," Morrison said. "Hopefully we do better this season. We're looking for more people to come out. I have a good feeling about this season."

Team owners and coaches selected nine players to receive awards and honored players who were injured during the season. Tommy Rhynes and David Depue earned the offensive players of the year. David Nava and Robert Miller were selected as the defensive players of the year. The administrator's choice award went to Yafiki Joiner while Phillip Church won lineman of the year. Kenny Jenkins earned the most improved award. Nathaniel Stone, who led the league in rushing with 1,080 yards, was selected as the most valuable player. Mark Holloway took home the most inspirational player award.

"Man, I always try to lead by example," Holloway said. "You know hard work pays off. It's an honor to get the award. I didn't expect to get an award. All I expected was to come out and have some fun."

Following the awards ceremony the Riffians introduced the 2008 coaching staff. Ernest Vogt, the former Silver Valley athletic director and head football coach, will step into the head coaching vacancy left by John "Tex" Williams. Doug South, head football coach at Lucerne Valley, and Augie Torres will help coach the defense while Rick Mora heads the special teams unit. Former Barstow High School football coach Willie Hailey stepped down as the defensive coach this year. Kevin Mintun has taken on the line coach responsibilities.

Vogt has a long history with South and Mintun. Vogt coached with South at Silver Valley and the two are good friends. Mintun played Vogt at Silver Valley.

"I feel fine about coaching this team," Vogt said. "It'll be a challenge. It'll be different. It's always good having them (South and Mintun) around because they know me."

With a long season ahead the Riffians are now preparing to practice and raise money. The team does not make a profit and the players are responsible for paying for their uniform fees and supplying gear. Transportation and operations costs are also necessary. Owner Nic Arispe said the team will be looking for sponsors, holding a golf tournament and selling candles and other items throughout the year. Anyone looking to purchase Riffian items or become a sponsor can visit Phantom Sports or contact Arispe at 760-220-8930.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4122 or david_heldreth@link.freedom.com