For the fall season, four boys of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community have been participating in amateur youth football leagues operated by the Pop Warner and National Youth Sports (NYS) organizations. Aimery Kuwanvana, James Schaaf, and Dominic Dallas played on the NYS Fanatics team, and Mathew Primeaux, 12, played on the Arizona Pop Warner football team Superstition Stalkers.
The Fanatics are currently in the NYS Midgets Division playoffs with a record of 4-2.
“I like my team and they are very good at playing football,” said Kuwanvana.
Schaaf has been playing for only a short time. He said he likes being a lineman because he gets to “block and hit people.” At this time, he is playing mostly offensive roles; defense is new to him. However, the team is trying him out in various positions.
According to his parents, Michael and Yvonne Schaaf, James Schaaf has always wanted to play tackle football. “Flag football was never an option,” said Yvonne Schaaf. “It was just great timing that he was mentally ready and the opportunity came up for him to play with his friend Aimery. Practice is not his favorite thing, but he puts in the work so that he has an understanding of the game, what is going on in the field.”
Kuwanvana and Schaaf have been friends since they were babies at the Salt River Early Childhood Education Center.
The Fanatics have been playing since October and making their way through the playoffs.
Primeaux played for the Superstition Stalkers in a total of eight games that started in August and finished in early October. Practices were held at Red Mountain High school.
“My season has been going great,” said Primeaux. “Everybody has been helping us out a lot, and I always tell them how I feel.”
He also likes Pop Warner because he “gets to tackle without getting in trouble for it” and it’s the one actual sport that he says he can actually benefit from, other than participating in karate and soccer.
“These are a great bunch of kids. We haven’t been having a great year—we lost the last three games that we should have won—but it’s a good thing for the kids to participate in. I love teaching them about the fundamentals,” said Stalkers coach Glen. “I love watching them play, and they are getting better each week. I wish they had a couple of weeks extra. Mathew has improved a lot; he started off very timid and now is one of the hard-hitters.”