Unbeaten Sophomore Aztecs need two more wins
BARSTOW • The Sophomore Aztecs have been perfect so far, and they intend to keep that streak of perfection going.
The Sophomore Aztecs are the 10-11-12 year-old Barstow team in High Desert Youth Football and Cheer. The league has 13 chapters with Barstow fielding six teams this year, with players ranging in age from 6-14.
The Sophomore team has been on quite a run. Barstow went 8-0 during the regular season, scoring an amazing 392 points while giving up 109. Last weekend, the Aztecs began postseason play by taking on Serrano, and notched another handy victory, by a 56-0 score.
Head coach Nathaniel Stone has certainly been enjoying the ride. Barstow Youth Football occupies a special place for Stone, as he played in it until he was 13, and has been a head coach for the past four years. This is by far his best season yet, though two years ago the team did well, making it to the league championship game, where it lost to Burroughs.
This Saturday brings the next test for the Sophomores, as they take on the Adelanto Saints in a second-round playoff tilt. A win in this game would punch their ticket to the championship match.
It should be a good watch, as the Saints came the closest to beating Barstow this year. The Sophomores were able to hold on for a 36-32 win, their only nailbiter of the season.
As for this week, Stone will stick to the game plan, which has worked pretty well so far.
“We practice hard and we play hard, and it shows in our games,” said the coach during Wednesday night’s practice at Stringham Pitcher Park. “We don’t really get a lot of penalties or make a lot of mistakes.”
Stone thinks those intense practices have prepared his players well for the game competition they face.
“To have a successful team, you have to have the players competing, not just in games but in practice, and that’s what we do,” he said. “Our players compete with each other even during drills. It’s what our boys do, and we’re proud of them.”
“It’s a good bunch of kids. They work hard and they’re smart and they listen,” said assistant coach Devin Low. “You don’t always need the fastest or the biggest players, but you always need the ones who are paying attention and know what to do. That’s what’s helped us win.”
Low is in his first year coaching the team and, like Stone, is very familiar with the league, having been a player.
“It’s been a surreal season for someone like me who grew up playing youth football. I started playing when I was eight, and Stone was one of my coaches,” he said. “It was only a few years ago that I was as young as these guys, and he was coaching me.”
“All us coaches are familiar with each other, and I think that’s why we run a good program,” said Stone.
The emphasis on team discipline was also cited as an important factor by assistant coach Kyle Williams.
“We hold the kids accountable. They have to maintain at least a 2.0 grade-point average in order to play. That’s our rule, not a league rule,” he said. “They have to behave well, in and out of practice. If they don’t come to practice, they can’t start that week, and if they miss a game, they sit out the next game. We’re strict with them.”
All the coaches are volunteers, all know each other, and all have an affection for youth football that keeps them involved, even though they don’t have kids in the league.
“I’ve been part of Barstow Youth Football for many years. We coach for the love of the game,” said Williams. “We’re all born and raised Barstow guys. We played together and now we coach together.”
The coaches will try to keep that unbeaten streak going against Adelanto on Saturday. The game starts at Noon at Hesperia High School.
“We’ll be leaving the Barstow Park and Ride at 9 a.m. on Saturday,” said Stone. “If anyone wants to be part of the bandwagon, we’d love their support.”