This year’s Huachuca City School football team has a little extra motivation.

In the past, the group — typically fewer than 20 players — would change at the school and run to Keeline Park for their practices, and on game days they would board the bus and drive to Tombstone High School to play on the Yellow Jackets’ field.

But when the Mustangs take the field for their first home game this year, the 26 players will be walking onto and protecting a field that belongs to them. On Thursday, Huachuca City School will make their debut on their brand-new football field, which was built in the back of the school.

Efrain Galvez, the team’s coach and school’s athletic director, said his team is seeing multiple benefits from having the new field, like an increase in players, conditions of the field, and overall morale.

“The field we were playing on at the park wasn’t maintained all the time, so it was tough conditions,” Galvez said. “It’s motivation for the kids to say they have their own field to play on.”

He added that in the past when he tried to convince players to join the team he was often asked where they played and practiced and his answer seemed to deter them from joining. Charles Carney, an eighth-grader at Huachuca City School and the team’s center, noticed the same thing.

“People would skip (practice) sometimes because we would have to walk (to practice) and the field was bad but, now that we have this field, it’s nice,” he said. “This field makes it easier for people to come to practice.”

Eighth-grade quarterback Ricky Melton agreed.

“It’s more beneficial to have it here so we don’t have to run down there and have to come back 20-30 minutes to get changed and catch the bus,” Melton said. “We get more time to practice and we don’t have to end practice as early.”

The construction of the new field, which is located within the gates of the school and past the gym, began in May 2017 by Randy Keeling and a group of volunteers from the school and the community. In March 2018, the field was seeded. Having more grass is one of the things Carney and Melton like about the new field.

“The work is really appreciated, because if it wasn’t for their work we’d be playing at Tombstone,” Galvez said.

Huachuca City School’s football field isn’t 100 percent complete, as the scoreboard, which was purchased at a Tempe Unified School District auction last year, needs to be installed, bleachers have to be put in on the sides of the field for spectators to sit and the team benches need to be put in. Most of the work will be done next year.

The Mustangs play four games this season, two against Willcox and two against St. David, and are in search of their first win since 2014.

“(I’m looking forward to) hopefully getting a win and having fun,” Melton said. “It’s my last year, so I have to have fun.”

Galvez sees his team’s motivation and eagerness to win and is encouraged how his team, which is comprised of 10 kids from Walter J. Meyer School and split between kids who have played before and who don’t have any experience at all, is improving on the field and excelling in the classroom.

“There’s something about this group,” Galvez said. “They want to play, they keep their grades up and they come to practice.”

The Mustangs open their season Thursday at 4 p.m.

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