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Photo by Rodney Kitchen
Barstow Youth Football players run through their drills at Stringham Pitcher Park on Thursday.

It's Barstow Youth Football time again

Football and cheer teams take the field

BARSTOW • With autumn approaching, evenings at Stringham Pitcher Park are again alive with the sounds of football and cheer.

Practices are underway for Barstow Youth Football and Cheer, and the program is as popular as ever. There are currently 55 cheerleaders signed up, the highest number ever, and 69 Mitey Mites, also a record number. A couple of teams could use a few more players, but on the whole, the program is a healthy one.

That robust state is attributable to all the hard work of the staff. Barstow Youth Football and Cheer is run entirely by volunteers, led by president John “Tex” Williams. While he’s happy to see such great support for the program, he also has to worry about things like finances and fund-raising. These are tough economic times, and he does his best to keep things afloat.

“We have record numbers, but now we have to take care of finances. We have to balance the budget,” he said. “We’re looking for sponsors and still signing up players. We have payment plans and won’t turn any kid away.”

Barstow Youth Football is fortunate to have its financial worries eased a bit by the fact that it doesn’t have to pay for Stringham Pitcher Park.

“Every other city makes the league rent the parks. It’s one of the reasons we have the lowest fees in Southern California; most charge $200-500,” said Williams. “The offset comes from the snack bar and from souvenirs.”

The snack truck will be at games and is already open to serve those who come to watch the evening practices. Also open is the souvenir shack filled with t-shirts and hats. And then there’s the ice truck that Williams runs year-round. He’s a regular at high school games, and he’s also lately gotten permission to park in the Walmart lot.

“The new manager has been awesome to us,” said Williams. “We couldn’t do it without him.”

The program is fielding six football teams and six cheer squads this year. Last year was an exciting one, when the Sophomore team went undefeated in the regular season and went on to win the Super Bowl. Nathaniel Stone is back as head coach of that squad.

“We plan on repeating, of course,” laughed Stone when asked about his team’s chances. “It’s super hard to go back-to-back undefeated. We’ve got a lot of new kids, but we will be competitive. We might not win as much as last year, but we will compete.”

The Sophomores are one of those teams a bit light on numbers, at 18 players. Also needing a few more athletes is the Juniors squad, coached by David Depue. Depue has been Stone’s assistant with the Sophomores for the past three years, and is now heading up his own team.

“It’s a little frustrating, not having quite enough kids yet,” said the coach. “We have 15 and need 18.”

Numbers aren’t a problem for cheer coach Britney Gray, who has seen the best turnout ever. Gray coaches the Barstow Super Stars, but this is her first year with the Barstow Youth Cheer program. Both she and her squads are anxious for the season to start.

“The girls are doing awesome. They seem eager to learn, which makes my job easier,” she said. “I just love it. I love the game, love the kids. I’ve been loving cheer since middle school. I always knew one day I’d be doing this.”

Even though practices have started, kids can still sign up, for football or cheer, until August 21. Volunteers are always welcome, too.

“We can’t do it without the volunteers. From the coaches and board members to the people who sell the snacks and t-shirts,” said Williams. “We’re always looking for volunteers.”

Volunteers are the lifeblood of the program. Williams is a longtime volunteer who has given many years to the program, as has Don Depue, the program’s commissioner. Both got involved through their kids and held on long after those kids were done playing. David Depue is Don’s son, and he’s continuing the tradition by coaching the Juniors.

“I volunteered and never quit. My youngest son is now head coach of the Juniors, and my other son is deputy commissioner,” said Don. “Now I have two grandkids in the program, in Mitey Mites and Cheer. So I suppose that means I’ll be here for another 20 years.”

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