Although football fans may reluctantly put away their banners and green face paint at the end of the fall season, the game is not over for many players.
This spring offseason, for instance, the team maintains a rigorous practice schedule, training Monday to Thursday for two hours each day.
Head Varsity coach Milo Lewis said that the average practice consists of stretching individuals, agilities, 7-on-7 scrimmages and team offense or team defense.
Victory is the most important motivation for many on the team, such as junior Jarrett (“J-Money”) Conkin and freshman Guy Haiby. Other players, such as junior Hector Sotelo Quiroz, described hopes of building a strong defense.
“It shows in the season, the amount of work you put in in the off season, even if it’s hard,” Haiby said. “You just got to think about, if you put in work now, it’s going to show as result in the field during the season.”
In particular, the team teams in hopes of making playoffs at the De Anza league next year. Although, The team has made it to playoffs at El Camino multiple times in past years, making playoffs at De Anza has been a long-term goal.
“That would the first time that me as the head coach had done it in the De Anza league … and I think that’s what our program is been about,” Lewis said.
However, the team also focuses on personal growth.
“Everybody’s got stronger with what they’re doing right now, compared to when they were freshmen. They’ve never seen what they’ve done and sometime they surprised their own selves,” Lewis said.
Although spring football requires extra dedication from players, junior Ryan (“QB”) D’Amour said it also provides time to learn and grow as a team.
“It’s about winning and really being a team, a football team … like it’s fun to come and just hang out with the team, but like we keep the season in mind a lot of the time” D’Amour said. “We want to do good during the season and it takes a certain amount of hard work.”
Girls’ and boys’ water polo team shared their senior night victories on Oct. 17.
To celebrate the seniors, each team added special touches to make the celebration memorable. From giant cut-out heads and customized posters to balloon arches and Snapchat filters, the entire pool deck was full of Mustang spirit.
Four of the graduating seniors were asked for their favorite memory from the past couple years.
“We were gonna lose anyways, and our team doesn’t really care about that kinda stuff so, we played christmas music in the speakers of the locker room and just danced around,” senior Ashley Pae said.
After quite some time deliberating on which moment of many was her absolute favorite, senior Rosalina Fry chose one of the teams “weirdest” moments.
“A really good memory was sophomore year, our last game, we were playing Wilcox, their coach was screaming stuff, and we were winning by a significant amount, and the Ref red carded him.” While they were waiting, Fry said “We swam over to the Wilcox team and we got in a giant circle on the side and started doing a tribal chant.”
While the girl’s favorite memories were focused around their teams comradery, the boys valued their big wins.
“Sophomore year, we won the first CCS game in like 20 years. That was pretty lit,” senior Alexander Zeren said.
Senior Zachary Birrer shared about another game that went down in the books as an upset.
“My favorite moment of water polo was sophomore year when we beat our rival Saratoga in triple overtime.” Birrer said.
Following up to Birrer’s comment, Zeren said “Yeah that was pretty gangster.”
All in all, the memories these senior athletes made together in tournaments and practice will be carried with them forever.
Sophomore Sara Olsson is an extremely important player to the volleyball team. She is a huge help to the team scoring-wise and defensively.
The volleyball team has been very successful this season and will be in CCS. Their record is 7-6. “I believe that the season has gone quite well, even though we have had our ups and downs each game end with having a good time,” Olsson said.
Even though the team does not always win, Olsson and her teammates play hard and
enjoy playing every game.
The team’s success doesn’t only come, but also from the work the teams does during practice.
“The beginning of each practice JV and varsity does a T25 workout and then we jump straight into doing the butterfly drill, which involves focus and concentration. Then we run a few drills targeting the skills that we need to practice for our next opponent, and ending practice with playing 6 on 6,” Olsson said.
Olsson not only has the support of her teammates and coaches, but she also has the support of her family.
“They make me play better every game I play. My mom especially is there for me every game filming me for future college videos and recruiting purposes” Olsson said.
Outstanding performances by Olsson in games and her improvement from last year is why she was given Player of the Month.
The girls’ volleyball team this year went to CCS as the three seed in the division 1 bracket.
Their overall record to end the season was 7-7 and the last loss was a upset and heartbreaker. On Sat. the team played against the sixth seed LGHS in the quarterfinals of CCS.
They lost in the final and close set letting the wildcats proceed to the semifinals to now play against San Benito High school.
Even though the team lost in their first game in CCS that loss does not define the team at all; this team is one that will never get on each other over stupid mistakes instead they will say it’s okay we’ll get the next one.
That sense of camaraderie is what makes this team a great one. If junior Kelsey Van Horne makes a mistake and the opposing team gains a point, the team huddles for a second and in the next play Van Horne gets that point back because she promised her team she would.
The work ethic of this team is very visible to anyone who has watched any of their games this season.
Sophomores Paige Bensing and Sara Olsson are key players that make the team so good that they do not show their inexperience of being on the team for only two years.
And key player Katelyn Zhang was set up by her teammates to spike the ball every single time she was on the court, Zhang would get points from those spikes to help the team.
All of the players are important to the team, if one was not on the team, the team would not b the same.
This team should not ashamed of themselves for being upsetted instead they should cherish this season and for the non-seniors work hard all offseason to win CCS because that is what this team is more than capable of.
Sport teams have huge standards to live up to, after the last few successful years, such as boys water polo, girls volleyball, cross country, girls tennis and girls golf.
Cross country won their league championship, thanks to runners junior Ryan Ma, senior Elena Kamas and junior Sammy Lieberman along with lots of other runners. The cross country team has had a very successful year. Ma said he believes his team has a chance to win CCS however, he knows it will be tough
“While our training has prepared us well for the season, there are many other fast teams in CCS,” Ma said. “Both the Homestead boys and girls varsity teams will definitely have to run fast at CCS on November 11 to qualify for the CIF State Meet.”
Boys water polo has also had a very successful season this year; their record is 12-9. A big part of winning games is coaching. When asked about how well the coach has prepared the boys water polo team, sophomore Ben Ramans said he believes the team has a very good chance to take home a CCS win.
“I think our coach has definitely prepared the guys team for CCS, and we do have a chance to win our CCS division this year which is a first for any holmestead water polo team,” Ramans said.
Girls’ volleyball also looks to make a strong push to CCS. With the help of key players senior Kaitlin Zhang, sophomore Sara Olsson and senior Laine Schwartz as well as other players, the volleyball team ended with a record of 7-6.
“The one of several of the team’s leaders is Kaitlin Zhang. She is one of our seniors and always knows how to take charge in difficult situations even if it involves holding someone accountable or calling out where the block should be,” Olsson said.
Zhang is a very important part of the team due to her leadership in tough situations and her outstanding play, Olsson said.
Girls golf and tennis have also seen their fair share of success as well. Girls golf finished first place with the help of senior Meghan Hook and freshman Naomi Danner.
Girls tennis ended with a record of 6-8. Senior Natalie Tarn was a big help in the team’s record.
The Mustangs are excelling in fall sports and these teams look to do major damage in CCS.
When we hear about famous athletes, we hear about their stunning athletic ability and the gold, silver and bronze that dangle around their necks. But, what we do not hear is what shaped them to be the athletes they are today, and the challenges that have shaped their journeys.
HHS boasts many notable alumni in the athletic field including Linda Jezek, a silver medalist in swimming for the U.S. team, and Scott Erickson, a pitcher in the MLB. It would not be a surprise if the next big athletic star is a budding student on their way to the big leagues..
Perhaps it’s your chemistry partner or that person you pass by in the halls. Maybe it could be your best friend. Either way, here are a few talented athletes with ambitious aspirations.
The annual rivalry game between HHS and FHS took place last Friday. This year, the two schools faced off against one another at Fremont High School. The game, dubbed the “Battle of the Bell,” takes place at each school’s campus every other year as their respective football teams fight it out to win bragging rights and the coveted “bell.”
Many students from both schools came out to support their respective teams. Screams and cheers from both sides could be heard as the fight to keep the lead waged on. The pressure to keep that lead, however, was felt prominently within the Mustangs.
“I feel like there’s huge pressure, not only especially on the team, but on us, and a lot of people talk and we’re like, ‘we’re gonna keep the bell,’” spectating senior Karen Rivera said.
She felt that though there was pressure, the Mustangs would be able to pull through.
“I feel [the pressure] gives us more energy and it helps us cheer on and helps keep the team motivated and have a goal,” Rivera said.
The tension built as the struggle for the ball went back and forth between the teams. But in the end, the Mustangs brought home the bell for the seventh year in a row, finishing off the intense game with an impressive score of 36-13.
“It’s like nothing, it’s unbelievable,” senior Nathan Fussell, a Mustang in his final year of football, said, following the victory.
The Mustangs team have the reputation for winning streaks they do thanks to the bonds the players share on and off the field.
“[The team] is a family … they’re my brothers,” Fussell said.
The win against FHS last Friday can only set the bar higher for the team this season, but the team is not about to back down. Head Coach Milo Lewis said he is quite confident that his players are fully prepared for the upcoming season.
“We’re on a roll right now, so it’s kinda cool going into our season. We won the bell, we beat our rival, and it’s time to go and I think all our players understand what’s happening,” Lewis said.
After four days of brunch cheer-offs and lunchtime activities, Homecoming day finally arrived last Friday. In place of tutorial, the Homecoming rally kicked off with a performance by the Marching Band and Colorguard.
“I think our performance was… good, especially the bass drum at the end,” sophomore piano player Sean Chen said.
The rally continued with a performance by the cheer team and the Equestriettes dance team.
Following these performances, the annual Homecoming court ceremony took place. The nominees, nominated by HHS staff and selected by the senior class, were seniors Edward Li, Lindsay Allen, Yannik Omictin, Danielle Genovese, Trevor Carpenter, Claire Wynne, Tej Gokhale, Elizabeth Cook, Jacob Larry and Juritzy Caravez. Omictin and Allen were crowned Homecoming king and queen.
For freshmen, this was their first experience with the Homecoming court.
“It’s really cool for them to dress up like that, and it’s really fun to watch,” freshman Leiyonee Bose said.
After the ceremony ended, the rally wrapped up with the presentations of every class’ Homecoming videos, each one themed around both Homecoming and its class’ theme.
“The [freshman, sophomore, junior] videos all had cool visuals, which is a crowd-pleaser. [The senior] video focused too much on story,” senior Homecoming video director Alex Lyon said.
“The seniors’ video was so good,” said junior Austina Wang, who directed the Class of 2018 Homecoming video. “It actually had a story.”
Following seventh period on Friday, the marching band, Colorguard, Equestriettes, cheer team and police department led all four classes and the Homecoming court in the Homecoming parade.
“[The parade] is the most surreal thing about Homecoming because everything comes together at the parade. Just being there, in the car, outside the car, you just feel this kind of magic and this spirit,” Omictin said.
At 6:00 p.m., the Homecoming Varsity football game kicked off under a drizzle. In a close game, the varsity mustangs won 41-37 with points by junior running back Joey Bond-Davidson, senior running back Rajah Ward, senior wide receiver Luke Mujica and junior fullback Andrew Oduor.
Senior running back Kelli Lackey dominated the long receiving game and averaged ten yards per catch. Senior running back Rajah Ward rushed for 238 yards in 16 carries.
“It was thrilling seeing the amount of support and unity brought to the Battle of the Bell game despite the weather,” senior Yu Ying Chua said.
Following the Varsity game, the Homecoming dance took place in the Student Center and Large Gym. There was a photo booth operated by the photography class and Life in Focus photography club and ASB-run food centers offering popcorn, water and popsicles.
“I think that the dance was extremely fun. It was a great start to the dances of the year, and I’m excited to see what other dances are gonna be like,” junior Simon Lee said.
If you’ve gone to any HHS football game throughout the last three years, senior running back Rajah Ward (#20) has probably scored a touchdown in one of them, and that is not an overstatement. Not only is he an incredible athlete who will leave behind a powerful legacy at HHS, his speed and dexterity have set standards across the league.
In the most recent game against Leland on Sept. 2, Ward rushed for 160 yards and had two touchdowns in six carries. In the following game against San Lorenzo Valley on Sept. 9, he rushed for a total of 209 yards and scored four touchdowns, one of which was a 94-yard run. And that’s only two games.
All of his statistics on maxpreps.com are at least twice as high as the national average of his age group, he’s been called “spectacular” by the San Jose Mercury News and he has been named Player of the Match 11 times throughout his high school career.
Here is the transcript of The Epitaph’s interview with Ward, which has been edited for clarity.
The Epitaph: Last year, your average number of yards per game was 118.6, which is almost four times the national average. You’ve made 26 touchdowns throughout your high school career so far. Your average yards per carry is 10.8. How do you do it? What gets you in that jersey before each game?
Rajah Ward: Uh, I don’t know. A little music, some words from [Coach] Milo Lewis, just knowing what I have to do before, a little film study before practice; we watch a lot of films. Coach Milo sets us up beautifully, he’s the one who makes it happen, I just have to run to the end zone.
TE: What’s your favorite movie?
Ward: Favorite movie? Favorite football movie, or favorite movie ever?
Ward: My favorite football movie is probably Friday Night Lights, the movie, not the TV show, and my favorite movie all time, uh … Lion King.
TE: Now, I was at the first game [against San Lorenzo Valley] and I noticed that you, your teammates and your coaches are incredibly in tune with each other. You guys have a lot of passion when you play. Could you describe your relationship with your teammates and coaches?
Ward: Uh, me, my teammates, and my coaches, it’s more of a family. We’re not necessarily a team, we’re a family. Now, we’ve been together, most of us, since our freshman year, [and] we never stop seeing each other. The football season, [even] when it’s over, it’s starting again. So, [from] January to June to August, we’re working, we’re talking, we’re training together, we’re watching film, we’re always working out. We just have a strong connection with each other, and everybody knows each other very well. That’s how we have that connection, that bond; it’s because we’re family.
TE: Describe training. What would an ordinary day in training be like? How does training prepare you for the big game?
Ward: Training? You know, honestly, I probably do less training than everybody else because my work ethic isn’t very good. I’m trying to work on it, every day it’s me going to the weight room, hitting biceps, triceps, going out to the field, and running, I run a lot, one hundred yard sprints. I try to get those in every day after practice. I do blocking schemes, I run a lot and I do a lot of footwork.
TE: Now, I believe that at the last game against Milpitas, you scored two touchdowns?
Ward: I scored four.
TE: Four! What does it feel like to cross that line into the end zone and have the audience cheer behind you?
Ward: It’s relief. When I run the ball, I feel so much pressure, there’s so much that can go wrong and not much that can go right. So when I finally get across that line and score a touchdown, it’s a big sigh, like I did it, and I look in the stands, I look for my mom, and I look for my dad, and I point. I did that for them, and my teammates. Then I go give Coach Milo a high five, or walk past them, give them a pat on the back and say “Good call.” Then I go to each and every one of my linemen and say, “Thank you, I love you guys.”
TE: What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment while playing at Homestead?
Ward: Greatest accomplishment at Homestead? Oh, I don’t know. Probably the fact that I haven’t lost to Fremont yet. Wait, I don’t want to say “yet.” I’m not going to lose to Fremont. I’ve been playing since freshman year, we beat them that year. My sophomore year, we beat Fremont, my junior year, we beat Fremont, we haven’t lost to Fremont yet. That’s a pretty good accomplishment.
TE: Do you plan on playing football in college?
Ward: Yes, hopefully, yes. Where? I don’t know, I’m not sure yet. My decisions are just all about keeping track of my grades, making sure that’s good. If that’s not good, I don’t know. But if my grades are good this season, I’m for sure playing in college. The “where,” I don’t know yet.
TE: Alright, here’s my final question. Do you think talent is real? Are people born with the ability to play football like you do? Or do you think running 92 yards for a touchdown against Fremont last year comes with painful, persistent work and training?
Ward: Well, some people work hard for things. Some people are naturally good at math, some people are naturally good at science. I’m just naturally good at football. It’s just something I do, it’s second-nature. It’s something I wake up and look forward to every day. I wake up, and go to school, and then I go to football practice. It keeps me going through the day. Yes, talent’s real, [and] sometimes you have to work, but for me, it just comes naturally. Most of the time [during practice], we don’t practice something that I do [at a game]. If I make a move, that’s just me doing me.
TE: Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you want the school to know about you before they see you at the Homecoming football game in October?
Ward: Just come out. Come out and support, we won’t disappoint. Homecoming, we lost last year, I had a pretty bad game, but I assure you, that will never happen again. We will beat Fremont this year.