2016 in review by Guillermo Hernandez Martinez

While this wasn't the easiest year for a multitude of reasons, I am glad to look back and see that I produced good work in spite of the challenges and missed opportunities. It was also a year of growth and good times, however. I had a lot of fun shooting football (surprise, surprise), as well as trying to improve in other areas of my photography.

Among the geekiest positives that did come out of 2016: I started playing classical guitar, bought and played several nerdy board games and went back to playing D&D regularly, this time bringing my wife along. I am really thankful for the group of friends surrounding us here in Springfield.

I was also very happy to have my parents visit Springfield for the second time, and for being able to meet my nephew Thiago in a quick visit I made to Mexico. Here's hoping to seeing more of my family and my country in 2017.

2015 in review by Guillermo Hernandez Martinez

This year brought so much happiness to my life. I was finally able to find a staff photographer job thanks to the Springfield News-Leader, which brought my wife Danielle and me from Texas to Missouri.

I am enormously grateful to have talented colleagues to work with and an interesting community to cover. Thanks to being the nominal sports photographer, I got to keep learning and developing my eye for one of the subjects that most impassions me.

This year also made me thankful for new friends who introduced me to the outdoors, as well as family old and new. I am so happy to see my brother, Emilio, happily married to Jenna Beltran and the two of them taking care of their beautiful son, Thiago. Danielle and I can't wait to meet him in 2016.

Hiking in Arkansas by Guillermo Hernandez Martinez

About two months ago I was somehow convinced to hike to the Buffalo River in Arkansas with my co-workers Thomas Gounley and KC Cotton and, somehow, managed to do alright. I brought along a Leica I bought last year but had used only sporadically before. Unfortunately, I found out either the body or lens (or both) have a couple of pretty significant light leaks, which are really noticeable in color film. I was able to either crop or otherwise minimize them in post, but it was still a sad discovery.

When In Texas: State Bound by Guillermo Hernandez Martinez

With less than a minute left in a one-sided game, the Mason defense lines up across from the kneeling victors. Luis and Miguel Castillo, linebacker and safety, watch the final play of their high school football career end much too quickly. As their opponents jump away in celebration, Miguel and Luis take a moment to embrace their teammates before leading them back to the sideline, where they wait for their dreaded second-place medals. Miguel, a quarterback as much as a safety, consoles each of the lined up Punchers with a thankful hug, none longer than the one he gives his twin brother.

Born into a military family in the small town of Mason, Texas, the Castillo twins' life has been filled with sports, service and each other. The five-sport lettermen grew up with the same love for athletics as they did for the Navy, under which both their dad, Eliseo, and oldest brother, Victor, performed their military service. After three and a half years of hard work on the field and in the classroom, Luis and Miguel hope their dedication will pay off as they each apply for a coveted spot at The United States Naval Academy. Before that, however, Mason and the Castillo twins have to prepare for the football state championship game.

As they have for the entire season, Luis and Miguel spend most of their week either in school or practice, filling what little spare time they have by visiting their mother, Guillermina, at the family's convenience store for lunch. Everywhere they go, however, they are greeted by fans eager to talk about the game.

At the end of the week, Luis and Miguel find themselves standing in front of their team and their entire school as they speak in their final pep rally. Each of them reads a note from their phone, recounting their last practice and bidding good bye to a very successful career. After a cheerleader performance and a rendition of the school song, Luis and Miguel board the team bus and set off to Fort Worth, where they have a short practice before heading to their hotel for the night.

The next morning, the Punchers seem relaxed as they laugh and joke their way to AT&T Stadium, ready to face Canadian High School in front of what seems like the entire population of both towns. Holding hands, the twin captains walk to the middle of the field and brace themselves for the last time. Shortly after, Miguel leads his offense on a long drive, diving over the goal line for a touchdown. After that play, however, Canadian takes control and never lets go. The Punchers keep fighting but as time expires, it is the Wildcats who are celebrating the 34-7 score.

Although Luis and Miguel's high school football careers ended in defeat, they are ready for the next step. While the twins' acceptance into the Naval Academy is far from guaranteed, the possibility of continuing their football career seems even more distant, as competition for spots in Navy's varsity football team is extremely tough. Discouraging facts for some, they don't seem to dent the Castillos' determination. When asked if he thought they could play football in college, Luis's answer was quick and without hesitation: “Yes, sir.”

Miguel (left) and Luis Castillo speak at the Mason Punchers' last pep rally of the football season on Dec. 17, 2014 at Mason High School in Mason, Texas. It was also the last pep rally of the Castillo's lives, as they will graduate from high school this year and hope to attend the Naval Academy in 2015.

Eliseo "Eli" Castillo (center) sits in between his sons Miguel (left) and Luis at Gigi's, the Castillo family's convenience store and gas station in Mason, Texas on Dec. 15, 2014. By trying to attend the Naval Academy, the Castillo twins are following in the family's military service tradition, with their father and oldest brother having both served in the Navy.

Luis Castillo talks to classmates in a hallway at Mason High School while he kills time before the first practice of the day on Dec. 16, 2014 in Mason, Texas. Luis and Miguel's life is consumed by school and athletics. "There's not much to do in Mason, so we try to stay busy with sports," says Luis. They have both excelled in the school's basketball, track, baseball and tennis teams, in addition to playing both ways in the football team. They have also each been awarded several places in both academic and athletic all-state teams throughout their career.

Luis Castillo (left) and cheerleaders Staci Habecker (middle) and Madelyn Glentz look at the regional newspaper's front page, where both Habecker and Glentz are pictured above Mason's semifinal victory recap. Luis would later tell his friends about a bet he made with Habecker, "if we win state, she has to kiss me.

Miguel (left) and Luis Castillo pack up their clothes on Dec. 16, 2014 at their home in Mason, Texas as they prepare for the next day's journey to Fort Worth, where they will practice before the state title game on Dec. 18. While both brothers were part of Mason's state championship team as freshmen, this game has much more significance for them. "We were on special teams that year," said Luis, so now that they are quarterback (Miguel) and running back (Luis), the pressure is much heavier.

Luis (left), Miguel (middle) and their cousin Kyle Zavala take turns answering questions during a telephone interview with a regional reporter at the Castillo's house on Dec. 16, 2014. Most of the Castillo's extended family lives in Mason, but they are the closest with Kyle, a fellow senior and star football player. 

Luis Castillo waves to cheering fans as he boards the bus that will take the team to Fort Worth, where the Punchers will practice in TCU's campus later that day. A large number of fans were out in Mason's streets to wave and wish good luck to the team as they start their journey out of Mason, Texas on Dec. 17, 2014.

Luis Castillo practices punting at Sam Baugh Indoor Practice Facility in the Texas Christian University campus in Fort Worth, Texas on Dec. 17, 2014.

Miguel Castillo and Garret Bibb, his roommate for the night, test the beds in the team hotel on Dec. 17, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. While both brothers dream of attending the Naval Academy, Miguel would seem to be a step closer to the dream after attending the Academy's Summer Seminar program for high school seniors, in which he excelled. "They even put him in charge of the other students, he came back so happy," said his proud mother.

Mason Punchers seniors and captains Rylee Owen (44), Luis Castillo (27), Kyle Zavala (77) and Miguel Castillo (2) walk towards midfield at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Dec. 18, 2014 for the Texas 2A State Championship Game coin toss. Luis and Miguel grew up very close to Owen and Zavala, and all four have played together throughout their high school careers.

Miguel Castillo jumps over the goal line to score Mason's only touchdown of the 2014 Class 2A Texas State Championship Game played on Dec. 18, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. The Punchers were defeated 34-7 by a dominating Canadian High School team in what was the final game of Luis and Miguel Castillo's high school football careers.

Luis Castillo stands in dejection seconds after the last game of his career ended with a 34-7 defeat at the hands of Canadian High School on Dec. 18, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. The Punchers were outplayed from the start of the game, only managing to score one touchdown in the first series of the game.