Two AF youth football teams earn berths in Florida tournament - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Sports

Two AF youth football teams earn berths in Florida tournament

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Posted: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 3:00 pm | Updated: 9:52 am, Fri Dec 16, 2011.

One was the seventh seed; the other was the top seed.

In the end both found their way to Florida for a shot at the youth football national championship.

The path might have been different, but the postgame celebration and the satisfaction of winning a state bid for a national event were the same.

The Ahwatukee Foothills area will have two football teams traveling to Kissimmee, Fla., Dec. 3-10.

First, meet the SEV Wildcats made up of 9 and 10 year olds from Ahwatukee Foothills, Chandler and Tempe.

The core of the team has been together for a few years, and played well enough to beat most of the teams they came across over the last couple of years.

Until they switched leagues when the competition cranked up in the American Youth Football League and the Wildcats went just 4-3 in the regular season.

"We had not lost in the regular season in three years," coach Greg Gavel said. "It gave us a new respect and we appreciated how difficult it is to win and what it takes to win. We were hungry and we dug in as coaches and players to regain the level of success that we were used to."

As the seventh seed it wasn't an easy route to the title game, but the confidence went through the roof after the Wildcats defeated the Hurricanes 13-6 in the quarterfinals, a team it lost 38-0 to in the regular season.

"They didn't have anyone score on them all year until we beat them," said wide receiver/cornerback Wesley Aaron, who is a sixth-grader at Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle School. "We got more confident after every playoff game and realized we could do this."

They beat the Scottsdale Firebirds in the semifinals, 24-8, and then shutout the Chandler Pumas, 25-0, in the finals.

It completed the tri-fecta of knocking off the teams that beat them in the regular season and toppling the top three seeds at the same time.

"It really took the three losses to get us to win the championship," Gavel said. "The kids were giving up a little but then we found ourselves. We decided we didn't care what the score was, we were going to fight hard every single play. It led to a much more physical style.

"We were so focused on the next play instead of the next game so much that it didn't really set in that we were going to pull it off until we started taking a knee in the victory formation."

It has been estimated that it's going to cost about $20,000 for the entire team, coaches and chaperones to attend the game.

For fundraising they are seeking donations and have also organized a raffle.

For the raffle they are soliciting local businesses and individuals to donate merchandise or services that can be raffled off. The raffle tickets are being sold for $25 each, or five for $100.

The raffle will be at Teakwoods, at Ray and Kyrene roads, at 7 p.m. on Dec. 1.

Donations are also accepted and a donation account has been set up through the SEV football league for the Wildcats and the Jr. Midget Thunder.

Since SEV is a registered 501c3 nonprofit, all donations are tax deductible. Donations can be made through http://www.ayfregistration.com/sev/sponsor.php.

The second team to win is the Thunder. This team will represent Arizona in the Jr. Midget (12 and 13 year olds) age division.

While the path was much easier as the No. 1 seed, the title game was about as nerve-racking as it can get. The Thunder defeated the Chandler Cougars, 30-24, in an overtime that included a huge defensive stand when they stopped the Cougars on a 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

Then, on its first offensive play in overtime the line opened a huge hole and Johnnie Johnson finished off his 216-yard day with his fourth touchdown.

"It was a huge hole and he walked in," coach Al Money said. "We went nuts. People were hugging and kissing and went on for about an hour. It was surreal."

The core of the team has been together for several years, including Chad Porter, Joseph Money and Scott Splaver, who have been together from the very beginning.

Back when the team was known as the Destroyers the winning didn't come easy. The team lost its first five games and didn't score a point.

"Because we lost so many games when they were younger they learned how to win," Money said. "Once we figured it out, we started playing at a different level and expecting to win.

"Now we have a chance to see how we are against the rest of the nation."

There will be donation buckets placed throughout the area at local businesses, or donations can be made directly at http://www.ayfregistration.com/sev/sponsor.php.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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Jason P. Skoda
  • Jason P. Skoda
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  • Resident sports writer at the Ahwatukee Foothills News

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