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Photo by Chelsea Buchanan
The Aztecs' Kyle Pittman (8), Simon Sanchez (32) and Aaron Jarozewski (40) descend on Granite Hills' Stanley Nicholson (18) in Friday's game at Barstow High School.

From worst to first

Aztecs take share of league title

BARSTOW • The last couple of years were rough ones for the Barstow football team. Last season the squad came up empty, winning only one game, and that was by forfeit.


How things can change in just one year.


On Friday, the Aztecs played their last home game of the regular season. They went in with 6-3, 2-1 records, needing one more victory to put them in line for a Desert Sky League title.
Mission accomplished.


The Aztecs hosted Granite Hills in the final game, and had little trouble, coasting to a 49-0 win at Barstow High School.


The Cougars had the kind of season the Aztecs had last year, going into Friday’s game without a win. With so much on the line, however, Barstow head coach Mike Esposito had been telling his players all week to pay no attention to the record and take their opponent seriously. He needn’t have worried.


“We went from worst to first. We were 0-10 this time last year,” a jubilant Esposito said after the win. “To take first place is unbelievable.”


The Aztecs were consistent, spreading their points over all four quarters. James Noble had another big night, getting his team’s first touchdown on a 12-yard run, then finding the end zone again near the end of the second quarter on a 45-yard run. David Green also scored in the first half, as did Devonte Tate, on a 16-yard pass from Tracy Venable. All Sultan Hamdan’s kicks were good, and Barstow held a 28-0 halftime lead.


Venable had a big second half, scoring his team’s fifth touchdown with 6:31 to go in the third. He opened the fourth with a 37-yard run, getting the ball to the 13-yardline, where Green finished up, crossing the line for the second time on the night. Venable was then part of his team’s final score, scooping up a loose ball after a blocked Cougars punt, and running it back 46 yards with under three minutes left. Noble scored on a five-yard run on the next play, as the clock ran down.


Noble finished with 225 yards on 22 carries. The senior has totaled 2198 yards this season.


“Noble is a great young man who works his butt off,” said coach Esposito. “He’s done an outstanding job.”


The win gives the Aztecs a share of the league title with Burroughs. Victor Valley beat Silverado Friday night, leaving Burroughs the first seed and Barstow second.


What was the difference between this year and last for the Aztecs?


“I think it was a combination of things. We put in a lot of work in the offseason,” said Esposito. “Our defense came to play all season long. We have an offensive line of five guys that averages 240 pounds; they all have good GPA’s and have a good understanding of angles and things.


“We have good athletes on this team. I have not only football players, but wrestlers, track kids, baseball players. It was a combination that paid off.”


It was a trying road for Venable, who saw his team take some beatings the last couple of seasons. He got injured in Barstow’s first game this year, and was forced to the sidelines. The quarterback has done a great job since returning, and will finally get to play a postseason game next week.


“This feels really great, after going 0-10 last year,” said the Aztec senior. “I had a feeling we’d turn it around, this team works hard. To get all this in my senior year after coming back from an injury...it’s hard to explain. It’s great.”


The postseason schedule will be posted Sunday. The Aztecs have a shot at another home game.

Update: The Aztecs will play a CIF Southern Section first-round playoff game this Friday, 11/9, at Oak Hills at 7:30 p.m.


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