The access was without restriction and the trust was appreciated.
In joining the Desert Vista football program on its 36-hour road trip to the San Diego area and back, I was able to take in every aspect of the journey.
Normally on Game Day I say hello before a game, cover the game, get a few quotes and write up a summary on the game.
This time around I was granted full access as I rode on the team bus, attended team meals, listened in as coaches discussed the game plan, watched nightly bed checks and was in the locker room before the game, at halftime and afterward.
It started off hot as the air conditioner on one of the charter buses wasn’t working, so the start of the road trip was delayed until another bus could make its way to Ahwatukee.
Other than that — oh, and the disappointing way the offense performed in a 13-0 loss to Mission Hills (Calif.) — the trip was pretty smooth and very enlightening.
I got a chance to see how coach Dan Hinds’ steady and calm approach filters down, how he bounces ideas of quarterback coach Don Rezac for reassurance, how he addresses the team before and after games and how it took a ride from San Diego to Yuma — about 171.4 miles — before he started to break down the disappointing game with his coaches.
There was the moment the hostess at HomeTown Buffet realized a group of 75 high school kids, who were hungry and posing as amateur competitive eaters, walked into her establishment ready to put on their feed bag.
“We had them on the ropes for awhile,” Hinds said.
I got a chance to learn about the strong bond between senior Will Barfield and Hinds, both of whom lost their fathers in the last seven months.
“We have bonded over it,” Barfield said. “It’s something that he has been able to help with.”
It was clear who some of the team jokesters (Tyrone “Shaq” Avriett), leaders (Anthony “Tomcat” Reaves) and play makers (Matt Trujillo, TJ Roberts, Richard Haywood) were during our peek into the team hierarchy.
I had the opportunity to be within earshot as the coaches discussed — “Have you seen our practices?” — what quarterback would begin the second half after starter Cade van Raaphorst was benched for Brendon Smith the last two drives of the first half.
It added up to a jam-packed, emotionally-charged weekend to open the season that is chronicled exclusively here in the AFN with even more detail online with additional images and videos.
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.