The six Hollister Cowboys teams plan to honor veterans and community workers in their Sept. 30 Hoedown Throwdown Homecoming games at Hollister High’s Andy Hardin Stadium in the only way they know how: fighting to defeat their opponents, the Concord Cobras, to maintain their excellent season records.
Playing in the 24-member NorCal American Youth Football League, the 238 members of the Cowboys are nearing the end of a 10-game schedule, with three games remaining. Three of the teams, the 14U Regulators, the 12U Bomb Squad, and the 10U Outlaws, are so far undefeated.
“The high point this season is watching the leaders grow,” said Efren Lopez, the defensive coordinator for the Bomb Squad. “We have great leadership right now with our captains, and they are helping our younger ones develop in a way that makes our teams more successful.”
The way the team runs its offense and defenses, according to Lopez, has given the younger members more opportunities to step up in the field, and their collective efforts have placed the Bomb Squad fourth in their division.
“Our offense handles adversity pretty well, and our defense has been keeping us in the game,” he said. “Communication has been great, and we just don’t give up any points. We know what we need to do, and we feel really positive about this next game.”
Learning to play football by watching his father, twelve-year-old Tristan Lopez began playing when he was five years old and has served as linebacker and safety for the Bomb Squad before settling in as quarterback.
“I’ve grown up watching defense,” he said, “So as a quarterback, I really get to experience a whole different perspective of the game. But I always get out there and play my heart out.”
Lopez thinks the toughest matchup, so far, was on Sept. 23, a 6-0 win against the Bay Area Lions. “We struggled a bit and really had to try our best to win,” he said. “We weren’t used to playing that good of a team, and it was kind of a shock. I had to play a lot of positions in that game, and I learned a lot.”
The Bomb Squad’s twelve-year-old tight end Logan Grace said his favorite game was on Sept. 10 against the East Palo Alto Greyhounds. “We shut them down completely and scored over 40 points on them,” he said. “Our defense was very good, we have some great offensive players, and I got three sacs in that game.”
Regulators line coach Marty Carter said that his team has been doing exceptionally well and has already qualified for the playoffs, Starting the season off off with a 61-0 victory in their first league game on Sept 26 against the Pittsburg Junior Pirates, he said their toughest game so far was last week’s against the Bay Area Lions.
“It was pretty much a nailbiter until the third quarter,” he said. “Then we got a scoop and score, and that pretty much sealed the deal. But we are playing pretty well—we have some stuff to clean up, but I think we’re pretty well balanced both offensively and defensively.”
14-year-old Regulator Michael Hendricks has been playing football for two years, becoming interested in the game after watching 49er Trent Williams play. He agrees that the Pirates game was the best so far and says one of the keys to the team’s success is their closeness.
“We have a lot of dedication to each other,” he said. “We love each other like we are each other’s family.”
Hendricks credits the team’s balance of strengths with their second-place standing in the league.
“We rely on the offense alignment,” he said. “The way they block is the only reason why anybody’s available to make plays. And our defense, our linebackers, are really good at stopping the run game.”
Though not undefeated, the 6U Goon Squad and 8U Primetime Boys are both ahead, each with four wins and one loss. The 10U Cowboys are trailing at two wins and four losses.
Currently fifth in the league, Primetime Boys assistant coach Anthony Parker said that after winning their toughest game, a 33-31 matchup on Sept. 2 against the San Francisco Bombers, his team has confidently their sights set on the number one spot.
“A lot of these kids are undersized,” he said, “but they work their butts off, and they have a lot of heart. My running backs, Issac de la Rosa, George Medina and Skyler Parra, prove themselves every week. They’re seniors this year, and they are great leaders for the rest of the kids.”
But for Parker, the wins and losses are less important than the life lessons the program teaches. “It builds character,” he said. “How to respect your opponent and what it is to have brothers that have your back. And to be humble when you win and know how to take a loss.”
Andy Hardin Stadium opens at 8 a.m., with the first game starting at 9 a.m. Tickets are $7 per person (ages 16 and up), and $3 per person (ages 5-15). Veterans with ID will be admitted for free. Activities include face painting, a photo area and a balloon artist. Local vendors will be in attendance, and parking is free.
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