Friday, Aug. 26, 2011 | 2:01 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer celebrate the return of football season with an hour-long podcast diving into anything and everything regarding local high schools. They also look back on the victories by Bishop Gorman and Moapa Valley in the Sollenberger Classic and finish with week one picks.
The days of Lawrence Guy and Phillip Payne dominating the opposition for the Western High football team are long gone.
But they are not forgotten.
Guy, a rookie with the Green Bay Packers, returned this offseason to speak with players following a training session. And when he spoke, they listened.
In addition to excelling on the gridiron, Guy also took care of business in the classroom. He has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia but didn’t let the learning disabilities stop his dreams of pursuing a college degree at Arizona State.
“It was neat for the kids to see that you can make it from Western if you want,” coach Fernando Carmona said.
During the NFL lockout, Guy spent time at Western running bleachers to stay in shape. “He busted his ass. It was great for the kids to see a Warrior doing that,” Carmona said.
The coach is equally pleased with the effort of his athletes in the offseason. Despite only having 25 players on the roster, Carmona is optimistic he has the right blend of talent and hard workers to compete for a playoff spot in the balanced Southwest Division.
Western has had just six wins in the three years since Guy's and Payne’s senior year, when they advanced to the Sunset Regional semifinals. Payne is a star wide receiver at UNLV.
“We definitely think we can get into the playoffs. The kids have busted their butts all summer,” Carmona said.
Several of Western’s players will line up on both offense and defense, including seniors Reggie Williams and Jamaree Walker. They each play running back and linebacker. “They are our big guns on both sides of the ball,” Walker said.
On the line, senior Marshall Taylor (6-foot-3, 310 pounds) is a three-year starter and the Warriors' top college prospect.
This is Carmona’s third year at the helm of the program. While they have won only four games in his tenure, the strides they’ve made off the field have been significant. For instance, they have new uniforms this fall for the first time in almost a decade.
“The biggest difference is the consistency (the coaches) have displayed,” Carmona said. “We’ve provided a safe haven for them. A lot of the kids are buying into the program.”
A fresh coat of paint and a fresh perspective are among the changes being made around Western High School.
Western is one of five turnaround schools that missed the marks set by No Child Left Behind and now faces the challenge of increasing student achievement.
The school is the third oldest in the district and its campus lies near Decatur Boulevard and Veterans Memorial Highway. The majority of students attending Western are minorities from disadvantaged homes. Western is known for having a rough past, but students are optimistic about the future of their school.
Change is apparent according to students interviewed in September.
“When I was in eighth grade, I was told I was going to get shot or stabbed when I came to Western,” said senior Kole Yanez, 17. “That might have been true 15 years ago, but now, you don’t see that here.”
Rules are tightly enforced on campus. The school keeps a strict dress code policy and cell phone use during class time is not permitted.
Halls are designated by grade level giving students a sense of ownership and community. Pride is clearly visible at pep rallies and sporting events. The newfound pride might just be he medicine needed to alleviate the 8 percent dropout rate, the highest in the district.
“It’s like building a house. You need a strong foundation,” said Neddy Alvarez, principal. “You need those strong relationships. When kids know we care about them, the learning will take place.”
- Year built:
- Principal (Year Hired):
- Neddy Alvarez (2008)
- Mission Statement:
- “The mission of Western High School is to promote scholarship, encourage good citizenship, and embrace our cultural diversity.”
- Approximately 2,400
- Notable alumni:
- Frank Hawkins, former NFL player
Capt. Nicole Malachowski, first female Thunderbird
Ronnie Vannucci, drummer of The Killers
Tom Collins, Clark County commissioner
- School Report Card:
Compiled by Gregan Wingert