Playing JV football is a rite of passage that tens of thousands of young high school boys are going through at this exact moment in time. Often unspoken in conversations of local sports, and overlooked by Fox Sports West for Friday evening airings of high school games, JV football is an underrepresented sport. We don’t refer to game time in this town as “Friday Night Twilight.” Varsity football gets the glory: “Friday Night Lights.”
Normally, JV is that awkward spot found between youth football and varsity football. Well, not this week. Mammoth High School Junior Varsity Football is all about the glory and glamour, as one of their own has been deemed this week’s MHS Athlete of the Week: 10th grader, Tyler Nollen.
Head Coach John Trujillo and I spoke about his squad of 22 underclassmen.
“They are a young team with a promising future at Mammoth High School. The boys are having fun. They are learning. This group will make a great varsity squad.”
I asked John about working with first year Assistant Coach Nick Escalier. “This is his first year coaching. I coached Nick through youth football and high school. He is doing great. It’s so cool to see him go full circle from athlete to coach.” I’ve had the opportunity to sit in a classroom and observe Nick and John break down video with the team. This enthusiastic group, from Christian Calixto to Max Mueller, and everyone in between, is an animated, passionate group. They have a fantastic coaching staff.
As for the star of the show this week, Tyler Nollen is a great kid. I know firsthand, as I see him every third period for World History. He brings a high level of intelligence to class every day. One of the first students to complete a task, on target and correct the vast majority of the time, he is a skilled scholar with great potential. Tyler’s favorite school subject is biology. “You learn a lot about your body. Your immune system. How your body fights diseases. Plus, I do pretty well in the class.” said Nollen. Along with attending Cheryl Hart’s Biology, another favorite of Tyler’s is Dan Polis’s Construction Technology, because, as he says, “I can use my hands. I can move around. I can use my energy.”
Nollen takes a lot of this energy to the playing field. He is committed to his sixth year of football. While he has played every position, he is currently defensive end and tight end. I asked him about the assignments. “I get to knock the crap out of the quarterback.” Seek and destroy is how Number 40 operates when the opponents have the ball.
Trujillo says of his all-star, “Tyler is a very hard-working team captain. He leads by example. Maintains good grades. An excellent athlete. His ‘never quit, never give up’ attitude is obvious. He gives 110% all the time.” When I asked John where he gets his math, he said, “Every play, he does better than the last one.” Along with football, Tyler will play his fourth year of basketball this winter, and sixth year of baseball. He is a tri-sport athlete.
I asked Tyler about his sense of motivation. “I like getting stronger. It’s about the fun of playing football. It’s fun to me. One reason I get up and go to school every day is for sports. Football, basketball, baseball. I try harder every play, every minute of the game.” He also spoke dearly of his father Tom. “My dad helps me out with anything I need. He tries as hard as he can to take care of me.”
Tyler’s scholastic goal this year is a 4.0 GPA. He sees college as a real part of his future, possibly on an athletic scholarship. He simply wants to do the best at everything he does. His favorite sports programs are Norte Dame and Butler University. As he says, “They are where it’s at. Good sports facilities.”
Nollen’s parting words for others? “Try your hardest. Go for your goals. Most of the time, it will work out for you.” You can watch Nollen making tackles at 4 p.m. tonight, Nov. 1, at the Gault-McClure field when MHS hosts Desert Christian. Come experience Friday Night Twilight.