Diablos vying to win Pop Warner championship

Porter Reynolds of Queen Creek is a running back for the Diablos. (Special to the Independent/Southeast Pop Warner)

Southeast Valley Pop Warner Diablos are scheduled to compete in the conference play-off game against the North Central Rhinos at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at South Mountain High School, 5401 S. Seventh St. in Phoenix.

(Diablos heading to state championship game)

Southeast Pop Warner is part of the national Pop Warner association that was founded in 1929 to give youth the opportunity to play football and cheerleading, to not only learn the sports but also the importance of education, according to the group’s website: http://sepopwarner.com/about-pop-warner/.

Southeast Valley Pop Warner participants live in Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Mesa, southeast Chandler, Gilbert, Coolidge and FlorenceThe Diablos are ranked No. 1 heading into the game, Shawn Hamilton, Diablos business manager, said of the team.

“Our team has already beaten that team twice,” he said.

Head Coach Phil Lloyd said the first two times the teams played were blowouts.

“I believe the first game was week one and it was 37-13,” he said. “Just about three weeks ago, the second to last game of the regular season, 34-6 or something like that.”

If they win then the team will play in the state championship on Oct. 28. The state championship will be played at either Sunnyslope High School or North Canyon High School, he said.

“I’m confident that we can beat anyone they put in front of use but any given Saturday anything can happen,” Lloyd said.

If the team wins in the state, then it continue on to the regional rounds.

“The last time Southeast Pop Warner made it to state was 2013,” Hamilton said. “Everyone is really excited.”

Lloyd said the previous year the team went 2-6 during the regular season.

“We got a really good physical group,” he said.

Assistant Coach Owen Swinford said the team was a good group of kids.

“They’re fast learners,” he said. “Always willing to do what they are told.”

What makes this team special, Hamilton said, is that there are only six returning players.

“We’ve got six first-time players and then the other players came from all over the place,” Hamilton said. “Part of it is luck.”

Lloyd said it took a lot of hard work to coach the team from 2-6 to 6-1.

“A lot of walk-throughs, tons of information,” he said. “I bring white boards to practice, I draw stuff up. I hand plays out and assign them as homework.”

Lloyd said he uses game time vocabulary during practice even if they are doing running drills.

“It’s more ‘hey we go on indicator, we go on a number,’” he said. “You can say anything you want on the line of scrimmage but until he says that indicator, the guys just sit.”

The players are 11-14 years old.

“Maintaining focus is definitely one of the hardest things to do when they are that age, they are still in that maturing period,” Lloyd said. “If they get talking or clique-up as I call it, where the guys on the sidelines start chattering, if I see the back of your number we line up and we run.”
Swinford had a different way to motivate the kids, he said.

“I even went as far as tattooing the logo on my forearm as a motivator for the kids,” he said. “I was under the impression that Scottsdale was the bar. Usually Scottsdale represents Arizona (in regionals).”

Good grades are very important to the Pop Warner program, Hamilton said.

“We’ve got seven students who have applied for a scholarship with Pop Warner,” Hamilton said. “They get scholarships for good grades, a 96 average or above.”

“We’ve got some kids who joined because their parents wanted them to get good grades,” he said.

“They’re doing much better this year than they have in the past.”

About 95 percent of their players go on to play high school ball, he said.

“Pop Warner prepares you for that,” Hamilton said. “You’re learning exactly the plays that the high schools are running.”

Hamilton said the program gave kids something to do and keeps them out of trouble.

If people want to sign up their children they can visit the website www.sepopwarner.com to find out about new registration dates.

Kids from all over the Southeast Valley come to play for SEPW, Hamilton said.

Comment on this story at www.queencreekindependent.com. Reporter Arianna Grainey can be reached at 480-982-7799 or agrainey@newszap.com.

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