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Aztecs football prepares to suit up

BARSTOW • The Barstow High School varsity football team is a young squad with a new coach, but with the season’s first game just three weeks away, there was lots of optimism at Friday’s practice.


Friday’s evening practice was actually the last of so-called “Hell Week”, named as such because there are two practices a day. All this past week, there were morning and evening get-together’s for the Barstow football program, with all three squads - varsity, JV and freshman - taking part.


It was a crash course in getting prepared for the season ahead for the gridiron players. It was also a good way for first-year head coach Ray Silva to meet everyone and take inventory.


“We practiced in full gear for the first time last night,” said the coach on Friday. “I’m starting to get an idea of what we have. We’re young, but we have a lot of hard-working kids with good attitudes.”


‘Young’ may be a bit of an understatement. The team graduated 27 seniors from last year’s squad, and has only two returning starters.


It will be a matter of getting mutually comfortable for the team and its coach. While Silva was getting to know his players this week, they were getting to know him, and his coaching style.


“We have a lot of new players and a lot has changed, but this is a very disciplined team,” said senior Nelson Mendoza, who is back for his third year with the varsity squad. “There are changes, but they’re positive changes. We run a lot more and do a lot more conditioning.”


“We’re pretty good, our ‘O’ line is looking good,” said Kiler Holmeyer, a junior in his second year of varsity. “I like coach Silva’s way of coaching. I think he’ll do a lot of good things for the team.”


And while there are a bunch of new varsity players, they aren’t necessarily new faces.


“We all grew up together and played youth football together, so we have good chemistry,” said Holmeyer.


The new coach and his players will be backed up by the return of the football booster club. The  program has lacked a booster club for the past couple of years, but it has been revived. Serving as president is Felicia Hailey-Brown, who grew up in a family that supported the program. She’s happy to give her time and effort to promote Barstow football, and is recruiting help from the community.


“The community used to be real involved, then the booster club died out, and I’m hoping to get people involved again,” said Hailey-Brown. “We’ve had three meetings so far and held a fund-raiser, and are planning more.”


The club held a fund-raiser at Chili’s, and will also be working with Carl’s Jr. In addition, La Mesa Mexican Restaurant is a sponsor, and will be selling tacos at home games.


The Desert Sky League is always competitive, so the team will have to make the most of its pre-season practices to be ready. Though it’s still early, the new Aztecs coach is encouraged by what he’s seen so far.


“The kids have been enthusiastic. We’ve been practicing five or six hours a day and there’s been good attendance all week long,” said Silva. “We’re running a new offense and new defense. Our returning players are showing good leadership, and the young ones have been responsive to what we’re doing.


“I’m real pleased right now. The guys are working hard and catching on and that’s all I can ask. It’s going to be tough, but I think we’ll surprise some teams.”


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