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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : sports : local April 16, 2014

5/16/2013 9:56:00 PM
Feeling outside pressure, Prescott middle schools ax football
But, in a case of addition by subtraction, the area's youth football programs become more balanced as private Alliance league takes over
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily CourierMile High’s Morgan Frielich (5) runs past Granite Mountain’s Logan Smith during the annual Pizza Bowl game back on Oct. 2, 2010. The season-ending game, started by Prescott’s Cal Cordes, will mark its 30th anniversary later this fall. Meanwhile, bottom photo, this past Saturday Toni Curtis talks with volunteer Brittany
Leyvas about registering her grandson Noah Curtis, 13, for Prescott Youth Football at the
Grace M. Sparkes Activity Center in Prescott.
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier
Mile High’s Morgan Frielich (5) runs past Granite Mountain’s Logan Smith during the annual Pizza Bowl game back on Oct. 2, 2010. The season-ending game, started by Prescott’s Cal Cordes, will mark its 30th anniversary later this fall. Meanwhile, bottom photo, this past Saturday Toni Curtis talks with volunteer Brittany Leyvas about registering her grandson Noah Curtis, 13, for Prescott Youth Football at the Grace M. Sparkes Activity Center in Prescott.
Doug Cook
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - When Prescott native Eppie Vicente heard last year that the two middle schools here were considering cutting their longtime football programs, the proverbial light bulb flashed in his head.

This past November, Vicente, director of the new private Alliance Youth Sports football program in Prescott, met with Mile High Middle principal Jim Wells to discuss absorbing the Badger Pups' football team into the Alliance. He also hoped to get Granite Mountain M.S., Mile High's rival, on board.

Vicente and Wells grew up in Prescott together and were former teammates on the Prescott High football team in the 1980s.

"It was kind of left like that for a while (as simply a discussion)," Vicente said last Saturday from an Alliance registration session at Grace Sparkes Activity Center. "Then I had a meeting with him in April in his office and I told him that Alliance is looking to start a league, trying to get the middle schools involved."

Last month, Vicente met with Wells and Granite Mountain assistant principal Kristen Lyn, who subsequently sent a letter to parents, informing them that the middle schools would indeed be joining the Alliance along with Prescott Youth Football, a well-established organization.

The public may have an impression that the middle schools are doing away with football solely to save money on such things as insurance, uniforms and coaches' salaries.

That's partly true. One of the biggest expenses for the Prescott Unified School District when it comes to middle school football is recertifying the safety of the helmets the players use. Wells said that costs almost $2,000 a year.

"It is our most expensive sports program by far," Wells said of football.

Although the district/school recently lost funding from the state for its management and operations budget, Wells said he thought Mile High could still keep football, provided the money would eventually be replenished.

But Wells said there's more to it than that. Other middle schools in the tri-city area are dissolving their programs and allowing their players to transfer to private youth leagues.

Wells cited Bradshaw Mountain M.S. and Glassford Hill M.S. in Prescott Valley's Humboldt Unified School District, which he says combined to form one team. He added that Chino Valley's middle schools have already made the switch to youth football.

If the local competition had remained intact, Mile High and Granite Mountain likely would have kept their programs.

"It's hard to find funding, and the (local middle school) league is dissolving," he said. "Half the teams in the tri-city area are missing. It's a sad thing. You're talking to guys (Vicente and I) who love middle school football. It's a great experience."

Wells also figures that if half of the seventh and eighth grade players in this area are in a youth football league and the other half are playing for the middle school league, it weakens the competitiveness of both leagues.

In 2012, Mile High drew only 26 to 27 boys for football and was forced to combine its seventh- and eighth-grade teams. In contrast, four years ago, Mile High's seventh and eighth grades had enough players to field their own separate squads.

"Coming together is in the best interest for them to have a better competitive experience," Wells said.

Prescott High Athletic Director Mark Goligoski said he does not anticipate varsity athletics switching to a private entity to operate its programs.

The support for Badger athletics is strong, he added, particularly because of its boosters and tax-credit donations.

"The athletic programs are really there to support the educational missions of our schools," Goligoski said. "With that being the primary focus, you would never have that Club mentality of feeding into a corporation."


Last Saturday, Vicente said about 10 middle school players visited the activity center to register with Alliance.

It will cost students slightly more to join the league than it did at the middle schools, Vicente said. Each player's family pays $150 to sign up, plus a $25 rental fee for equipment. A fundraiser, which requires each player to sell $60 worth of cookie dough, is tacked on.

On June 2 at Matt's Saloon, Alliance in Prescott will conduct a fundraiser to help pay for recertification of the league's helmets and the first-time field fees to the schools. Any money that's left over would go toward scholarships to help players pay their way.

"We're looking for businesses to step up and sponsor some of these teams," Vicente added.

As for the Mile High and Granite Mountain players, Vicente said they will continue suiting up for their respective schools, practicing and playing home games on their own fields or at Prescott High's Bill Shepard Field, and battling in the annual Pizza Bowl rivalry game.

However, he added that the Badger Pups and Grizzlies will change their monikers to the Prescott Badgers and the Prescott Silverbacks, respectively, and face stiffer competition in the Alliance.

Another difference is that instead of playing two games per week, like he says they did on their middle school teams, they will play one game a week on Saturdays. They also wouldn't be allowed to count the Pizza Bowl as a division contest, Vicente said. However, it's possible that Mile High and Granite Mountain could still play each other in their old school uniforms if they so choose.

Due to insurance costs, the Alliance allows its teams to practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, although a Wednesday practice is permitted, during the season.

Robert Kronberg, a Prescott parent who has coached football in the Alliance as a volunteer assistant, said his son, Hunter, played in the league in 2012 as a sixth grader. Hunter will stay in the Alliance as a seventh grader at Granite, whose middle school team went undefeated in the regular season last year.

"He loved it," Robert said of Hunter's experience in the Alliance, which plays longer games than the middle school league did. "We do have just as good of athletes (as the Phoenix area). The only difference is: How do you start generating to get the kids to understand what they've got to go up against when you're playing 12-minute quarters and playing with regular high school regulation (time). When they hit this next level, it's all about tempo."

Paul Kinach, 13, who was a reserve defensive end/running back for an Alliance team this past fall as a seventh grader at Granite, attended Saturday's registration.

He said he knows some Granite players in his class who will miss competing for their school in the eighth grade.

"Mostly, it's pretty cool," Kinach said of playing in the Alliance. "Some of the kids that just started in the Alliance didn't really like it as much (as playing for their school). The kids that stayed with it (the Alliance) their whole life, they would probably stay with it now."


The Alliance operates as a grade-based league without weight limits. It places first and second graders in its Mighty Mites division, third and fourth graders on the Junior Pee Wees, fifth and sixth graders on the Pee Wees, and seventh and eighth graders on the Juniors.

The league is split into a North Division and a South Division. Prescott's two M.S. teams will play in the North with Prescott Valley, three Flagstaff squads, Sedona and Anthem. (Chino Valley could be in the mix as well, Vicente said.)

Each club expects to play an eight-game schedule, including four contests at home and four away, with the opportunity to compete in the North Division playoffs, Vicente said. NAU's Walkup Skydome will play host to the division's championship game.

In 2012, the Alliance began pulling seventh and eighth grade players away from the middle schools after it began advertising its own league.

"It's going to work good because now there's just one football league," Vicente said.


A second registration session for the Alliance League in Prescott is expected to take place June 8 at the Arizona National Guard complex, 1500 Heritage Park Road, next to Heritage Park Zoo off Willow Creek Road.

Last year, Vicente said close to 130 children signed up for football, but he expects more with the middle schools' involvement.

Preseason practices are slated to start on July 29.

For more information about Alliance registration, log on to aysanorth.org or send an email to prescottyouthfootball@gmail.com.

Related Links:
• North Alliance Youth Sports

Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, May 19, 2013
Article comment by: Soccer Is The Answer

All the more reason to get involved with the real football that the rest of the world plays. All you need is excellent endurance, ball handling skills, shorts, shirt and cleats. A lifelong sport which does not require helmets and protective pads. Both sexes can play this wonderful aggressive exciting sport. Get rid of US style football!

Posted: Saturday, May 18, 2013
Article comment by: melissa boyd

I was on pyf board for 4 years and wish the kids the best. I know firsts hand Alliance Youth Sports cares only about how much money they can make. They make promises they cant keep. A disappointing

Posted: Friday, May 17, 2013
Article comment by: Chris Ferguson

I have been the football coach at Granite Mountain for the last seven years. I am tremendously proud of the way our boys have come through Granite Mountain and PHS while embodying the spirit of interscholastic sports. I think these young men have done a tremendous job of showcasing what school sports is truly about.
I would like to publicly thank all of the parents and community members who have helped make the Granite Mountain football program a success over the last seven years. Your support has helped hundreds of kids.
Special thanks needs to go Dan Tyler, Dave Walther and Scott Kepner for their endless hours of help and support for the the young men who have played for Granite Mountain.
Apologies are due to Cal Cordes who kept middle school football alive in PUSD for the last thirty years. I am sorry it died on my watch.
Chris Ferguson

Posted: Friday, May 17, 2013
Article comment by: Craig Boyd

Sad to see the middle school programs shutting down football. I hope the new venture works out for everybody (especially the kids). I fear that Alliance is not the answer and they are only interested in turning a profit exploiting our youth time will tell.

Posted: Friday, May 17, 2013
Article comment by: Get the facts strait

This has been on the table for two years or more, but Vicente and Wells just came up with the idea in November, really!! Alliance is a horrible organization that is only concerned with making money. That is why Prescott Valley youth football and Chino youth football are not going to be a part of the Alliance organization. Good luck parents!

Posted: Friday, May 17, 2013
Article comment by: Just An Outsider

Glad to see the "good ole boys" saving the day ("Prescott native"), as the reporter put it. I have always said Prescott is not a football town and never will be, as long as the good ole boys think they got it all figured out. This decision will destroy what is left of any kind of hope of having a successful High school football program. What a joke!! Not to mention, who has a youth fundraiser at a Honkey Tonk bar?

Posted: Friday, May 17, 2013
Article comment by: WE SHALL SEE

This is a sad fate for youth football. Wouldn't it have been nice to have had some input into this decision. I'm glad that PUSD cares what we parents think.
The youth leagues have been very inconsistent in the last few years, changes in leadership, changes in leagues, almost not being allowed to finish the season because of a fund raising issues. If you don't like the way it's run, you can break off and start your own league.
Is this a non profit group? I don't think so. If not, are they paying fees for the use of the fields.
Good luck football parents, your at the whim of whom ever is running the show this year. I'm sure it will be dif­fer­ent next year.

Posted: Friday, May 17, 2013
Article comment by: Guess this answers the question

of whether pay-to-play covers the costs of football. Apparently not without significant booster support. Just kind of wonder if the schools do have the information to set a pay-to-play price that would actually cover the costs and if boosters could be found to cover that? I would prefer that to club sports, though, of course, club sports seem to be pretty much the norm for girls sports so maybe it is the fairest way to go. Still, I worry for some of the kids who won't get the family and/or financial support to participate in club sports instead of school sponsored ones. There just isn't enough money to go around.

Posted: Friday, May 17, 2013
Article comment by: This is part of tax increase strategy

Hurt the kids and destroy athletic future of football

Posted: Friday, May 17, 2013
Article comment by: These districts conspired to do this 4 Months ago

They got together and decided to all quit and blame each other so no district would be at fault. Sickening COWARDS! I thought they might even wait until August to announce.

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