By Daniel Hernandez
The Norte Vista football team is consistently dominant on the field and it can be attributed, in large part, to the man holding the reigns.
Head coach Ken Batdorf has been a part of the Norte Vista football program for 26 years and has no plans of slowing down.
The Norte Vista Braves have a 10-1 record this season and average around 35 points per game. So far, the Braves are ranked second in their division and are in contention for another playoff run. Their star running back, Eddie Allain, has 1,827 rushing yards in the season alongside a powerhouse defense that can shut down opponents and give the offense more opportunities to score.
“When you watch us play, our players are fresh at the end of the game,” Batdorf said. “That is what gives us an edge for these games.”
The team’s continued success can be attributed to the time that Batdorf spends off the field with the students.
From feeding his players before practice, reviewing film of the opposing team and occasionally participating in some lighthearted jokes, Batdorf strives to create a strong and trustworthy bond with each one of his players.
“At the end of the day, these guys aren’t going to be playing football in 10 years,” said Batdorf. “But they are all going to be positive members of our society, and hopefully I help with that. If they come out as better people, I won.”
The team’s slogan is “Once a Brave, always a Brave,” which creates a feeling of brotherhood and family that the players live by. Many see Batdorf as a father figure including some of the coaches.
“He is like a father figure to a lot of the kids,” Junior Varsity head coach Larry Nyugen said. “I still feel like I’m one of his kids even though I’m grown now.”
Like a true father figure, Batdorf gives many of his players responsibilities that they have to maintain to keep their operation running smoothly. Some of these responsibilities include cleaning and taking care of their equipment, bringing food items to help feed the team or being a team captain which entails controlling certain parts of practice.
Batdorf aims high when it comes to his athletes’ academic success.
“It’s all about the classroom,” Dustin Jamison, defensive end for Norte Vista, said. “If we have an F we have to sit out.”
Batdorf could not help but boast about his team’s high average GPA. He spoke about how his current team’s GPA is around a 3.0 average and how in 2016 his team had an average GPA of 3.5, the highest in Riverside County.
Although Batdorf’s main goal is to help his student athletes become better people off the field, the success that the program has had on the field cannot be ignored.
The Norte Vista Braves are consistently dominant in the River Valley League. Their ground and pound strategy has created a few household names in Riverside.
Running back Freddie Holly now plays for the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. Eric Melesio ran for 4,459 yards in a single season in 2016, putting him at number one in the nation for that year and fourth highest in the history of high school football.
Batdorf is now aiming for the coveted CIF title, which has evaded him on multiple occasions.
“It’s hard for people to understand unless they played the game,” Batdorf said when speaking about his 2016 CIF Championship loss in overtime. “It’s almost like somebody dies the season ends, because it is the finality of that team.”
Even after being in the program for 26 years, Batdorf has no plans to leave Norte Vista any time soon.
“I’ve had multiple opportunities to move on or to coach somewhere else,” Batdorf said. “God wants me here … to help mentor these students and teach them values that frankly aren’t really being taught to them anymore.”