When Oscar Castillo first stepped onto the football field at Diamond Hill-Jarvis in February 2017, he saw a group of kids he wanted to help.
Nevermind that the program hadn’t won a game since 2010.
“When I had that first practice, they didn’t look lost or dysfunctional– just regular kids,” Castillo said. “I told them the fact that you’re here before me and ready to go at it again makes you winners already. We’re going to do this together.”
Boy, did they ever.
Entering this season with the state’s longest active losing streak at 77 games, DHJ demolished Dallas Conrad in the season opener, 40-12. The Eagles were three losses away from breaking the record held by Houston Davis.
“I knew what I was going up against,” said Castillo, who hails from Earth, Texas, a tiny town an hour northwest of Lubbock. “But the kids and community continued to come out and I was taken away by it. They were hungry for one.”
Unfortunately for many of the past players, they went through an entire high school career without a win.
Senior lineman Daniel Robles didn’t want to be the next in line. He’s been on varsity all four years.
“It felt like everything was going right. We were taking care of business,” he said. “I love the sport and have been playing since I was little. The main thing is I like coming out every year and making new brothers on the field. It feels like nothing can go wrong when I’m with them.”
“We love football and that’s why we keep coming out,” senior linebacker Joey Flores added. “We love to compete and it’s great to see the results this year.”
The Eagles led Conrad 16-0 at halftime, but Castillo wasn’t ready to celebrate.
“The third quarter we exploded for 18 points and I thought this might be it, but even then I wasn’t sure,” he said. “We couldn’t let up. It wasn’t until around two minutes left in the game when I started to celebrate with the kids.”
Senior quarterback Adrian Gutierrez threw for 143 yards and scored two total touchdowns.
“Everyone was focused in the beginning,” he said. “Our mindset was to win from the very start. It just felt like it was going to happen.”
It was the first win since Sept. 18, 2010 vs. Dallas Jefferson.
They went to Pluckers that night and the school threw them a parade the next day.
“It was funny because some of the kids were looking around and didn’t know what to do – we’re finally here, but we don’t know what to do. Can we cheer, can we smile, but everyone was happy and it was a great experience for them.” said Castillo, who also received messages from alumni and FWISD coaches and administration.
“It felt great that the school had our backs like that,” Robles added. “We’re just going to keep fighting and keep this thing going.”
While the kids love the feeling of winning, we can’t forget the coaches too.
One in particular is defensive line and special teams coach Keith Barger, who’s been with the program longer than anyone else.
“To see them pull it off together is the reason why I coach and teach,” said Barger, who enters his sixth season with DHJ. “It’s moments like this. It’s exciting for the kids and why I do what I do.
“It takes a special coach to come here because there are so many obstacles, but to watch them grow and develop, and to see what they’re capable of is indescribable.”
While the streak was no more, it would’ve been easy for DHJ to feel content. But that’s not how Castillo or these players think.
They went out the following week and beat North Dallas 43-14.
It was the first time the program won back-to-back games since 1999. The Eagles have scored 83 points in two games, which is more than they had in their previous 20 (54 in 2017 and 19 in 2016).
“We wanted to do what winning teams do,” Castillo said.
While the school celebrated them, strangers have come up too.
Senior running back Eddrick Hampton, who accounted for over 260 yards and two touchdowns vs. Conrad, met one fan when he and a few teammates were downtown.
She asked “do I know you” and “where have I seen you before.”
Hampton had no clue, but a teammate said, “oh you must have seen him on the news.”
The fan acknowledged it and asked Hampton if he could take a picture with her.
“The amount of support is great,” Flores added. “Seeing a full crowd definitely gets the team going and brings the energy level up.”
DHJ plays North Side in the Battle of the Boot, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Farrington Field.
“While 2-0 is great, we have a super tough game this week vs. North Side,” Castillo said. “Preaching the winning streak goes so far; we have to stay focused on us and continue to get better every day.”