Barker brothers play sports for 3 different school districts
Mustangs in the fall, Rams in the winter and Raiders in the spring
BARKER – Andrew and Zach Hill, twin brothers from Barker, are playing the sports they love. That’s not out of the norm locally.
But the two brothers are unusual in wearing the school uniforms for three different districts. They play varsity football for the Medina Mustangs, and just started the wrestling season as a member of the Roy-Hart Rams. In the spring, they play baseball for the Barker Raiders, their home district.
The brothers and their parents are very appreciative of the partnership among the local districts in allowing Barker to be part of the Mustang football team, and for Roy-Hart accepting the wrestlers from the next-door district.
Andrew and Zach, age 15, said their teammates and coaches have all made them feel welcome. They said they were nervous in August 2018, when they showed up at Medina for their first football practice.
“I was a little shy but it became easier,” Zach recalled during an interview at his home on Drum Road. “They coach said we are all Mustangs.”
Eric Valley, the Medina football coach and athletic director, said the Mustang team has benefitted from having players from Barker and Lyndonville. He said those players are very committed to the program, and have longer bus rides for practices and games.
“We greatly appreciate the sacrifices they make,” Valley said.
This year’s varsity team had two players from Lyndonville, three from Barker and 23 from Medina.
Valley pushed back the starting time for practices by a half hour to 3:45 to accommodate the players from Lyndonville and Barker who have the longer travel times. The practices are over at 6:15. The Barker players don’t get home until about 7 p.m.
Valley said he welcomes the Barker and Lyndonville players and doesn’t draw attention to which school they are from.
“I don’t single them out,” he said. “We’re all Mustangs.”
Valley would like to have more Barker and Lyndonville players. He isn’t able to be at those schools during the school day to encourage people to play. Bill Bruning, a Barker physical education teacher, helps spread the word about the Mustang football program for Barker players. Bruning is the offensive coordinator for the JV Mustang team.
In Lyndonville, Valley’s wife Laura Valley is a high school physical education teacher. She helps nudge some prospective players for the team.
The athletic directors at Lyndonville and Barker also help make students aware of the opportunity to play for the Mustangs.
Andrew and Zach both played for Medina’s JV team in 2018. They were moved up to varsity this year as sophomores. Zach weighs 160 and Andrew is 220.
“They were good JV players and we had needs at linemen,” Valley said. “They both played steady throughout.”
The football season is over and the brothers have moved into the wrestling season. They have turned in the Mustang blue and white for Roy-Hart purple.
The brothers were in a youth football program with Roy-Hart. They said joining the Rams wrestling team in high school didn’t feel very foreign because they had played football with many of the Roy-Hart boys when they were younger.
Sometimes the Hill brothers wrestle some of their Medina football player teammates.
“It’s fun to go against each other,” Andrew said.
The boys’ parents, Mike and Beth Hill, see a much bigger friend circle for their sons because of the merged sports opportunities. During wrestling tournaments, Andrew and Zach sit with Roy-Hart and Medina.
“It’s kind of cool and unique to watch as a parent,” said Mike Hill. “You’re competitors, but in a way you’re teammates and friends.”
The Hills’ house is centrally located among the three districts. They have a Middleport address and are actually closer to the Roy-Hart campus than the Barker school. They are about 8 miles from the Barker campus, 7 miles from Roy-Hart and 12 miles from Medina. Students who live in Somerset go to Barker but they have a much longer drive if they are competing for Roy-Hart or Medina. Barker does provide bussing for the students.
Mr. Hill is a 1983 Roy-Hart graduate. He played on the school’s football team as an offensive and defensive lineman. He wrestled for Roy-Hart and competed in track, throwing the discus.
“Those football memories, I remember that a whole lot more than math class,” Mr. Hill said.
As school enrollments shrunk locally, some districts cut back on programs or merged teams. Hill worried his kids wouldn’t have a chance to play football in high school or wrestle. He was pleased to see Barker work out agreements where Barker kids could be on the teams for other districts.
“As a parent you want to see your kids afforded the same opportunities that you had,” Hill said. “That’s why we’re thankful to have these other programs accept them in.”
The Hill family remembers going to the Vets Park in Medina and seeing the field with artificial turf, the lights for night games, and the locker rooms.
Andrew and Zack had played baseball games there, but they were awestruck on that initial visit as members of the football team.
Beth Hill, the boys’ mother, said the Medina facilities “are just awesome.” And the Medina parents welcomed them, too.
Valley, the Medina coach, preached a unity message – to players and parents – at the start of the season.
“They weren’t made to feel like Barker kids who were playing for Medina,” Hill said. “They were Mustangs.”
Hill said his sons have become more outgoing and open to other people through their experiences at Medina and Roy-Hart. They have impressed their father with their work ethic and determination to contribute to the football and wrestling teams – while wearing other school colors.
“They’ve really worked their tails off,” Hill said.
He also likes that the boys have been exposed to competition beyond the Niagara-Orleans League by playing for Medina’s football team, where they have went up against Lew-Port, Dunkirk, Iroquois, Maryville, Maritime/Health Science in Buffalo, Akron and local rival Albion.
“Their exposure to competition and other kids has been expanded by so much,” Hill said.
Andrew and Zach both said they are now used to wearing the school uniforms for three different districts. It no longer feels unusual. They are looking forward to wearing the Barker maroon and white in the spring for the baseball team, where Zach is a catcher and rightfielder and Andrew is a pitcher, third baseman and designated hitter.
Until then, it will be the purple and white of Roy-Hart. The brothers said they are happy they have so many more friends now through their participation with teams in Medina and Roy-Hart.
“I would definitely know less people,” Zach said if he only played for Barker.
“We’re friends with more people from different districts,” Andrew said.