BARSTOW • As more than 100 Barstow Community Football players crawled on the ground, ran sprints, tackled dummies and put on their pads for the first time this year Monday evening at Stringham Park while another group of young Aztecs were holding their own football practice about 40 miles northwest.
On Fritz Field at Fort Irwin about 20 players gathered for their practice. For those at Fort Irwin, it's been an event that has been a long time coming. Fort Irwin will have its own youth tackle football team this year for the first time.
With the help of BCF, Fort Irwin will field one team this season — the Mighty Mites for 6 to 9 year olds who are under 90 pounds. Players' only option in the past was to travel to Barstow to play tackle football. The team can now practice in Fort Irwin, although they'll still travel to play games on Saturday.
"It gets kids that typically would not have a chance to play tackle football, the chance to play," Mighty Mites coach Chad Caylor said. "I didn't think because our kids were here in the middle of the desert they shouldn't get the opportunity to play tackle football."
Interest in the team has been significant, Caylor said. In just a few weeks time, Caylor and his wife Marilyn were able to sign up 19 players to play and are still looking for more.
Players in other age divisions will still have to commute to Barstow in order to play football, but it's a step in the right direction, said BCF Vice President James Noble and Rick Floyd, director of youth sports at Fort Irwin.
A youth tackle football team has been a long discussed but never accomplished idea at Fort Irwin, although flag football has been offered in the past.
Noble knows the struggles of parents and players at Fort Irwin — he experienced the same predicament. Noble lived on fort when his son James, who recently graduated from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and is attempting to play professional football, played youth football in Barstow. Attempts to start a Fort Irwin team went nowhere back then.
"Back in the early '90s, we tried to get something started but that was too much of a hassle," Noble said.
The next goal for Fort Irwin is to get its own charter.
While Caylor said he is appreciative of the support he's received from BCF, his ultimate goal is to create a Fort Irwin based league with its own mascot and colors.
"I'm not fond of being the Barstow Aztecs team two," Caylor said. "We are Fort Irwin."
He attempted to set up a charter for this season but ran out of time. Although Caylor will leave Fort Irwin in seven months, he's working to set up an infrastructure that will carry on when he's gone.
"It'll break my heart if it fell apart next year," Caylor said.
Fort Irwin recently went through the same process for Little League baseball. Noble and Floyd said Fort Irwin's success with that bodes well for football.
"Now with Little League, I think it's going to change some of the dynamics with football and we can continue to roll," Noble said.
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