It has been quite some time since the Sonoran Sidewinders (2-2) last played a football game this season.
In fact, its last game played was a Week 4 loss to the Salt River Scorpions at the Santa Rita High School football field on Sept. 17.
In that loss, the Sidewinders’ active roster had 18 student-athletes eligible to play, a big difference from the 35 at the beginning of the season.
The Sidewinders were supposed to suit up the next week on Sept. 24, but the Papago Pumas had to forfeit due to health and safety concerns.
The game that was to be played last week was postponed by the HJCAC for heightened academic expectations that were placed upon the student-athletes.
The two cancelled games may be a saving grace for the Sidewinders as they need just about every player they can get to be healthy and eligible. With the upcoming bye week, there is only more time to improve on that.
Despite the challenges that have presented themselves this season, running back Brandon Barrios is more than willing to step up to the task of being a leader on this team.
Barrios did not mince his words when it came to the number of midseason concerns.
“Ever since then (The Sidewinders’ last football game played), we’ve kind of had a little ’come to Jesus’ moment,” Barrios said. ”We gotta get these guys to either commit or just go home. We’re grown men now. We’re college boys so it’s either you wanna play this, or you don’t.”
Barrios is a tough runner coming out of the backfield who isn’t afraid to put his shoulder down and gain those extra yards after contact .
It makes sense, He had been doing that since his high school career at Ironwood Ridge in Oro Valley.
Barrios spent two years at the varsity level and earned the APS Digital/Tucson Conquistadors Player of the Week in 2019 for his 313-yard performance against Nogales.
He was also one of the nominees for the Ed Doherty Player Of The Year Award in that same season.
During his senior season, he racked up 1,491 rushing yards on 238 carries and scored 16 touchdowns.
It is on that very field where he learned to play the game with the intensity and explosiveness that he still utilizes.
“What carried with me is just work hard and it shows on the field,” Barrios said. ”The way you prepare in practice is exactly how it shows on the field. The intensity that we showed everyday in practice matched nobody that we went against, win or lose.”
Barrios earned an opportunity to play at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City, S.D., following his 2019-2020 season.
He stayed there for two years and came back to Tucson during the COVID-19 pandemic to help his family.
Although the decision to move away from South Dakota was a tough one for Barrios, it was made a little but easier with the opportunity to play under head coach Hal Reeser and the Sidewinders.
“I was given the opportunity (and) I took it,” Barrios said. ”I realized that I had bigger potential than I had up at Mines.”
Barrios now joins fellow Ironwood Ridge alumnus Tyler Haynie and Anthony Morales in one more shot at making it to the higher level, this time back in front of the Tucson faithful who once cheered him on.
“I wanted to take something that nobody knew about and nobody cared about and build it into a winning program so I’m gonna do my best to do that,” Barrios said.
After this week’s bye, the Sidewinders will attempt get its season back on track with a win against the Salt River Scorpions in Phoenix on Oct. 15 at 7 p.m.
NOTE: Barrios’ brother Brysen, a senior at Pusch Ridge, earned the APS Digital Print/Frog & Firkin Player of the Week honor for last week’s performance in a 41-20 win over Sabino. Brysen is also an Ed Doherty Award candidate based on that 191-yard rushing performance with three touchdowns.