‘On this team, you just gotta do what you gotta do’

Bellaire Football Changes JV Team to Freshman Team


Karis Chen

Sophomore linebacker Chris Wilson grins, getting off the Butler Stadium field to let offense on. He had just blocked a punt against Alief Elsik High school, letting offense get a quick touch down after a few plays.

Sophomore and varsity football quarterback Nolen Pursley doesn’t mind that there isn’t a junior varsity team this year. In fact, he welcomes the change, believing that having everyone learn varsity plays helps the team in the long run. However, for freshman football team player Noah Septimus, the shift has been tough.

In the past, Bellaire’s football program consisted of a varsity team and a junior varsity team. But with a large wave of incoming freshmen and fewer upperclassmen players, head football Coach Herb Kunz decided to reorganize the teams. While there are still two teams this year, the junior varsity team has become freshmen only, hence dubbed the “freshman team.”

“That’s how we chose to structure this year,” Kunz said. “We decided we wanted to have the freshmen stay separate. It’s the first step of the growth that we will have.”

For the new all-freshman team, this means they’re going up against junior varsity teams from other schools — teams with players who are more experienced in the game.

The Bellaire Varsity team gets ready to snap the football for another play at the Sep. 9 game against Alief Elsik High School. They were past the 50-yard line, having steadily inched up the field. (Karis Chen)

“It’s kind of all mental,” Septimus said. “You’re going against stronger, bigger guys, but you’ll eventually adapt to it. It just means you have to play harder. You’ll be better than them when you’re older.”

Despite facing tough losses, the freshman team continues to put in their best efforts at games. For freshman Marvin Lainez, support comes before the game even starts when players ask each other how they’re feeling.

“What motivates us is the team,” Lainez said. “We talk to each other. We keep our heads up. You try to help your teammates out as much as you can. In a way, I feel accomplished. You’re up against bigger guys, and if you beat them it’s like you’re on another level.”

On the other side of the field, the varsity team is adjusting to their own changes. Having all the upperclassmen on one varsity team means more players need to work together at the same time.

“I always believed having a junior varsity team is a good way to prepare people to play on the varsity level, but I don’t think it’s 100% necessary to have,” Pursley said. “Having a larger varsity team has definitely affected the team bond both positively and negatively, but I think as we progress through the season, we will grow much closer.”

Senior and varsity center Xavier Jennings believes there have been no major changes to the team.

“I don’t really see a change in dynamic,” Jennings said. “We’re still a team, you know? Pretty much on this team you just gotta have fun. You just gotta do what you gotta do.”

On the varsity team, returning players often mentor the less experienced players. Senior quarterback and varsity captain Jack Kennedy says a big challenge is making sure to be sharp and set a good example for the rest of the team at all times.

Senior and quarterback Jack Kennedy is aimed and ready to pass the ball against Elsik High School at the Sep. 9 game. Bellaire lost 35-21 playing home at Butler Stadium. (Karis Chen)

“I wanted to become captain because the captains have always been people I looked up to, and I wanted to be that person for the younger guys,” Kennedy said. “Motivation is a problem that every team can have when things aren’t going their way, and we’re no exception. A part of my role on the team is to help bring up the energy and get everyone focused on the next game, not the last.”

Despite the teams suffering some early losses in the season, Kunz isn’t too worried, saying his goal right now is to evaluate the team so they can be successful in later seasons.

“I think a big thing is having faith in the team, in the people around you,” Kunz said. “You have a couple of losses and it’s not exactly where you want to be. But at the same time, you go to non-district season, and then district season, and then you go to the postseason. Yes, we want to win, but we’re in the first season right now, and the first season is about evaluation.”

Players are looking forward to continuing the season, and Kunz has faith that his players will stay motivated to keep practicing for upcoming games.

“I think the most important thing if you’re going to take on any task is that you become dedicated to it,” Kunz said. “The majority of our players are self-motivated; they’re choosing to play football, and they do it because they have a passion for it.”

Ella Castillo and Sebastian Kiteka contributed to this story.