As a senior member of the Bell football team, Fernando Lazo realizes his responsibility as a leader. But his greatest responsibility, he said, is setting an example for his little brother, eight-year-old Luis.
“We are very close. I can’t wait to come home and tell him about my day,” Lazo said. “I wake up every morning and see what I can do for my little brother.”
Luis is in the second grade and does not play football, but Fernando is hoping he decides to take up the sport.
“Hopefully he will play. I think he’d like it,” Lazo said, adding that he is excited about Luis coming to see his games this season.
Lazo and the Raiders (0-1) are preparing for their second game as they hit the road to face Rockwall Heath (1-0), a team that went 10-3 and advanced three rounds into the Class 5A Division I playoffs last season. The Raiders, meanwhile, are looking for a turnaround under first-year head coach Mike Glaze as they are coming off a 1-9 season.
Glaze said Lazo had a strong first outing in a heartbreaking 34-31 overtime loss to Keller Central, a game in which the Raiders led 31-28 in the extra session.
Lazo, who moves into the starting lineup after being a backup last season, his first on the varsity, would love nothing more than to put 2014 behind him and help the team back to the playoffs. The Raiders reached bi-district from 2010-2013, before he reached the varsity level.
“Last year was a tough one, but we’re leaving last year in the past,” he said. “We learned what we could and now we’re moving ahead.”
Lazo has played a variety of positions since he began in the seventh grade, including quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, safety, linebacker – and now rover. He describes his latest position as “kind of like a linebacker, with more flexibility on the pass.”
“I don’t really care where I play as long as I can make a tackle,” he said with a smile.
“He brings a passion and energy that we love having on this team,” Glaze said. “He bleeds blue. He’s got the relentless effort we’re looking for.”
Glaze isn’t just talking about on the field.
“He’s just a good guy, a caring guy,” Glaze said. “He’s really respectful. He’s one of those guys who rallies the troops, and if he makes a mistake, he owns up to it. Accountability is a great sign of a leader.”
Life has challenged Lazo in several ways, he admits, but just as his football team has not given up and believes this season will be better than last, he has fought through them. One recent event, however, has provided both one of the biggest challenges and one of his greatest motivations at the same time.
Lazo has dedicated this season to a dear friend, Jacqueline Bell. He called her his “greatest fan.” She died in early August while he was away on a camping trip.
“She was looking forward to seeing me play. Now she’s got the best seat in the house,” he said, fighting back a tear.
“I will give everything I have on every play because I know she’s watching.”
And so will his family.
“I have to say thanks to my mom. She never gave up on me,” he said.
“And I never had a big brother. I had coaches, and they have helped me a lot over the years, but I’m glad I have a little brother I can help as he grows up. I’m always going to be there when he needs me.”
Bell (0-1) at Rockwall Heath (0-1), Friday, 7:30 p.m.
The Blue Raiders hit the road for the first time seeking the first win of the Glaze era. They face a Rockwall Heath team that won 43-17 against Sulphur Springs behind running back Cory Wilkerson’s 101 yards on just seven carries.
In dropping their opener 34-31 to Keller Central in overtime, the Raiders rallied late with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Dominique Lawson to Tacorian Howard and got a subsequent two-point conversion. They then took a 31-28 overtime lead on Tyler Dunlap’s 46-yard field goal, only to fall when Central got a 34-yard touchdown pass when it appeared the Bell defense had risen to the moment.
The Raiders also got a 100-yard rushing effort from Terry Pace and finished with 390 total yards as a team (322 rushing, 6.4 average on 50 carries). The defense, however, will have to give us less than the 421 Central amassed.
“I love those games where you run the ball 50 times,” Glaze said. “You usually win those – and we almost did.”
For a young team that only has five seniors starting, playing its first game, the Raiders looked in mid-season form in a couple of key areas. They had no fumbles and only committed six penalties or 53 yards – with two of those coming in the overtime.