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December 21, 2014

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Prep Football:

Father and son duo anchor Palo Verde’s stingy defense

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Steve Silver

Dave Castro Jr. (left), a senior linebacker and offensive lineman for Palo Verde, listens to instructions from his father, Dave Sr., who is the Panthers’ defensive coordinator. Palo Verde faces Las Vegas High in the 4A state semifinals on Saturday.

Palo Verde's true football family

Palo Verde senior captain Dave Castro (45) listens to instructions from his father and defensive coordinator Dave Sr. during Tuesday's practice. Launch slideshow »

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Cellphones and iPods illuminate the dimly lit Palo Verde weight room.

Bags of ice rattle on sore joints as the players try to find a comfortable seat on the unforgiving cement floor.

A typical din of chatter about homework, girls and everything football fills the otherwise barren den of steel weights and leather benches as the Panthers' defensive unit awaits the arrival of its coaches to start a film study session.

The players are restless – not only to go home, but to take their first look at Saturday's state semifinal opponent, Las Vegas High.

Then coach Dave Castro walks in and the room silences without instruction.

The veteran defensive coordinator has done this every week for the past five years at Palo Verde.

Castro does not yell or scream, he simply announces fragmented statements while everyone watches footage of Las Vegas' potent offense.

"Watch the guards … Look at this formation … Trips … You have to hit these guys, you can't arm tackle," he orders.

The routine of watching film is indeed a boring one for many in the Panthers' weight room, but for one particular senior, this film session holds added significance.

For linebacker Dave Castro Jr. this meeting could be his last in a Palo Verde uniform and his last as his father's defensive captain.

"I'm definitely not ready to finish my senior season yet," Castro Jr. said. "This has been a great experience. I always wanted to play for my dad and I know I wouldn't be the player I am without him."

Playing under a father is never easy, but for Castro it has always been a particularly challenging endeavor because Dave Sr. was a standout defender at Southern Utah University.

The elder Castro still holds the Southern Utah record for most tackles in a single season with 186, which he set in 1978. In his two years on the gridiron for the Thunderbirds, Castro Sr. racked up 334 career tackles, placing him second in the all-time defensive record book at Southern Utah.

Despite the high expectations, Castro made up his mind in middle school to play for his father no matter how far he had to travel. For the past four years Castro has made the trek to Palo Verde from Green Valley everyday to compete for the Panthers.

"I told him early on that there were going to be no favorites," Castro Sr. said about his son's desire to play for Palo Verde. "I said, 'You are like everybody else, but if you make a mistake then you are going to get it harder than anybody else because you have to ride home with me, you have to live me.' Some of the kids might hear me yell at practice, but David gets it on the field, in the car and at home."

That extra coaching, though, is what Castro Jr. attributes to his development as a football player.

Despite entering high school as a self-described "tiny" freshman, Castro is now 5-foot-10, 220 pounds and he holds Palo Verde lifting records for the bench press (335 pounds) and squat (465 pounds).

"He works hard, there is no question about that," Castro Sr. said about his son. "I told him early on that in order to survive in the big 4A class he had to be strong … I always said, 'You're not going to be the biggest person out there, so you better be the strongest. You're not going to be the fastest, so you better be the smartest and work on your reads and keys.'"

Castro Jr.'s strength and intelligence are the primary reasons why Palo Verde head coach Darwin Rost tries to keep him on the field as much as possible as a linebacker, offensive guard and a special teams contributor.

"With David it's like having a coach out in the huddle," Rost said. "He is really carrying the load for us and he basically never comes off the field. He's definitely a great asset to our team."

Although Dave Jr. is graduating this spring, another Castro is rising in the Palo Verde football ranks. Freshman Jake Castro is a wrestler and defensive lineman who will most likely follow the family football tradition.

Yet in true coaching fashion, Dave Sr. only wants to focus one game and one son at a time – especially with a potential state title two weeks away.

"Jake is a whole different breed from Dave and we'll work on what he wants to work on when he gets up to varsity," Castro said. "We all know what's on the line this weekend, but you can never make the mistake of looking ahead. Never. Right now we just have to beat Las Vegas."

Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].

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