High Desert Football joins Phoenix league, strengthens connection with Mingus

Ian Contreras (80) of the Cottonwood Lions runs the ball last season. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

Ian Contreras (80) of the Cottonwood Lions runs the ball last season. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

Big changes have come to High Desert Youth Football.

HDYF joined Phoenix American Youth Football, a league that features teams all across the Valley of the Sun and is affiliated with ASU.

“We joined Phoenix AYF, which offers so much more for the kids and there’s a partnership with ASU,” said High Desert AYF president Danica Briseno.

Last year Phoenix AYF played at Sun Devil Stadium, had a camp hosted by the Arizona Rattlers and an honors banquet at Wells Fargo Arena. Scholar Ballers are football players and cheerleaders with a g.p.a. of at least 3.0.

“The biggest reason that we joined was because of the Scholar Baller program,” Briseno said. “The Scholar Baller program holds kids accountable for their grades. So starting even with the little guys, that start at five years old, we want to see their report cards, we want to see that they are students before they’re athletes. You have to do that in high school, so why not start them when they’re young, coaching them up and training them that academics are important.”

HDYF also joined Phoenix AYF to bridge the gap between youth football and high school, since there isn’t middle school football, Briseno said.


The Cottonwood Marauders score a touchdown last season at Mingus Union. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

“We’re playing Phoenix teams in high school, we should start them when they’re young with what to expect, all the way up,” Briseno said. “We’re just trying to raise the bar and start them when they’re young.”

Including the playoffs, in 2016 and 2017, Mingus Union football played 10 of their 22 games Phoenix Area teams.

Mingus Union head football coach Robert Ortiz said the thinks HDYF playing Phoenix teams is a good thing.

“That’s ultimately who we end up playing,” Ortiz said. “I know we’re playing Combs, they’re from down in the valley, we play Mesquite and we play Seton Catholic and the last couple of years, they’ve played Sunrise Mountain and Saguaro and Higley, so the sooner that they can compete with those teams, at the end of the day that’s who we’re going to end up competing with when they get here anyway.”

Ortiz and Briseno are also working to strengthen the relationship between the youth and high school football programs.

“They’ve been doing a great job the last couple of years, but we’re trying to get Mingus back into the youth program to start getting these kids using the same verbiage and the same blocking techniques and a lot of the applied skills so that way they’re learning it at an earlier age and they can use it and apply it by the time they get here,” Ortiz said.

He said he thinks it is going to make a big difference for the Marauders because “great programs have great feeder programs.”

Registration for HDYF is ongoing. Football and cheerleading is for kids ages five to 14.

HDYF is having registration this weekend from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Rent-A-Center, 1100 S Hwy 260 in Cottonwood or you can pick up and drop off a registration packet at Little Daisy Motel, 34 S Main St in Cottonwood.

HDYF is also adding Rookie Tackle, for kids ages five, six, seven year olds, maybe eight year olds that haven’t played, depending on registration numbers.

“The rookie tackle league is a fundamental league where they learn the fundamentals of the game,” Briseno said. “So they switch positions, they only play on a 40 yard field with modified rules and that way they can gain the confidence on the field to play smarter and you don’t get hurt.”

It gives newcomers the confidence and knowledge to play football the safe and proper way.

“It’s not just ‘put your head down and hit somebody’ because they don’t play like that any more,” Briseno said. “We practice Heads Up football with USA Football.”

Rookie tackle is $80 per player, 11-man tackle is $125 per player and cheerleading is $100.

The ages are determined based on how old the kid is on July 31. Cheerleading is 5U to 14U and 11-man tackle is 8U to 14U.

Phoenix AYF also has a free kids camp at ASU on July 28, where they get pizza and a tour of the stadium. Then on Aug. 4 they have a big pool party at Wet’n’Wild Phoenix, where the AYF players get in with a small fee and others can buy tickets from AYF players.

Ortiz hopes the increased

Briseno hopes this change will help HDYF get bigger.

“I’m hoping for continued growth,” Briseno said. “This year I know that a lot of people are afraid because they’re playing Phoenix teams but I think that Cottonwood has reached a level that we are able to compete.”


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