BARSTOW Ray Silva patrolled the field as the Barstow High School football team finished stretching on Thursday evening.

The Barstow assistant coach's voice boomed over a largely quiet, peaceful field that would radically change in a few minutes.

"We are going to get loud, get crazy today," said Silva in his own slightly loud, crazy tone.

Thursday marked the Aztecs' first practice in pads in preperation for the 2009 season.

It is perhaps the holiest day of preseason high school football. A day filled with anticipation and marked on caldendars. The Barstow coaches compared it to Christmas.

The real football has begun.

"Football without contact isn't football," said junior lineman Dylan Barton on Wednesday. "It gets kind of boring."

The players waited 248 days between the last time they put on pads and were ready to release whatever frustrations were built up in the interim.

"First day of pads, it's the day we've all been waiting for," said senior Steven Locke on Wednesday.

While players have to adjust to the restrictions pads put on certain movements, the benefits out weigh any problems.

"It's like feels weird without pads" Barton said. "You can run a lot easier, you are a lot faster and you can do more with your hands. In pads it kind of limits you, but at the same time there's nothing holding you back. It's just all out. If you can hit them, take it."

To mark the occasion, Silva even brought out his Barstow Community Football Sophomore team to watch the display of brutality.

The practice began with conditioning drills before slowly moving into hitting. The first drill with any physical contact was a fundamental tackling drill. Players merely grabbed their partners, picked them up and drove them a few feet.

Then the real hitting, and football, began.

Players lined up on opposite ends, one took a ball and they charged right at each other. Just moments earlier senior running back Curtis Webb commented he still had the butterflies in anticipation.

There was no turning back after the first hit. Players cycled through the drill multiple times even as bodies flew while the sounds of football filled the air at practice.

"You can be a lot more physical with pads on," Locke said. "You don't have to worry about coaches getting too mad about going too hard. It's a big difference. We are always amped up and wanting to hit people. It's
always, 'You got to take it easy because you don't have pads on.'"

The Aztecs began two-a-day practices on Monday morning. Players had been devoid of pads until 5 p.m. Thursday due to CIF-Southern Section rules.

In an era of high school football when the football never really stops for a substantial amount of time, Monday was special. For one, it was the first time many of the Aztecs were in the same space together since the summer dead period started three weeks earlier. Only weight lifting is allowed during the dead period. Although Rubio opened the weight room in the mornings and evenings, players who were available to lift were required to only attend one session per day, which further split up the team.
Monday also meant that hitting was right around the corner.

"When you showed up on Monday, the mindset is we are going to hit on Thursday," Barstow coach Jose Rubio said. "This week is the week. Every other week, even if we are going to compete in a passing league and go play somebody, we still weren't going to put the pads on and play somebody."

Barstow officially opens the season on September 11 vs. Rialto at Langworthy Field.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4124 or