Sgt. Jeremiah Rangel and Cpl. Maurice Hurd of the Salt River Police Department wanted to make a positive change for the youth in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, so they decided to put together a Pop Warner football team for interested youth.
The team, called the Banderos, is made up of seven-, eight- and nine-year-olds who are part of the Superstition Pop Warner Football League; the kids that live within the Mesa boundary can belong to that league. Their goal is to keep the kids together throughout their years of elementary and high school and play together if they choose to continue.
The Banderos are a traveling team and play throughout the Valley. Their last season game will be on October 6 at Fremont Junior High in Mesa, at the southeast corner of Power and Brown roads. The team was 2-1 in the league as of September 22. This is their first time to play as a team in the league.
“Our main goal is to get a team with all youth from the Community into a league. This is the first year to have the team, and we have five [players] who have joined and like it so far,” said Rangel.
The team started practicing in August and has been improving since then. During the first month they practiced four nights a week, and now it’s two nights a week.
Community members; No. 88 Zilas Kisto, No. 77 Aarick Mack, No. 80 Aaron Mack, No. 85 Caelan Olmedo and No. 55 Joseph Rangel are five of the 14 players on the Banderos.
“I like it because it’s fun. It’s my first time and my position is tight end on the team,” said Kisto.
Tackling seems to be a large part of the fun for the kids. Joseph Rangel, who attends Hale Elementary School, said his position is cornerback and he likes tackling people. Aaron Mack, a fourth-grader at Salt River Elementary School, is a guard and said he loves his position because he gets to tackle. The other guard, Aarick Mack, said he too likes tackling and guarding his teammate when they have the football. Seven-year-old Olmedo is a linebacker and he tackles the opposing players.
Sgt. Rangel said, “We would like to thank our sponsors, Owl Ear Smoke Shop, Filiberto’s and Tribal Freedom Realty. We really appreciate their contribution to the Banderos. This was my first year and I think it’s fun. The kids are great.”