The Panthers youth football club, a participant of the Alliance Youth Sports Association, ended its inaugural season with a spotless record and a title at the juniors level, which consists of players in seventh and eighth grade.
The team, led by head coach Mike Lapsley, cruised through the regular season, beat the Eagles of Flagstaff, 26-8, in the first round of the playoffs in late October and won the Superbowl in the Walkup Skydome in early November over the Kings of Chandler-Gilbert in dominant fashion, 28-0.
Additionally, the lower age groups for the Panthers, the pee wees, junior pee wees and mighty mights, all reached the playoffs in their first years.
In response to demand for another set of teams, Lapsley started up the new program. He said that despite there being other club youth football teams in town, including the Eagles and the Jacks who also compete in Alliance, kids were being turned away due a lack of programs.
This year, as all the Panthers divisions filled up, no kid was turned down an opportunity to play, Lasley said.
After winning the Superbowl, the Panthers juniors went to the Turkey Bowl in the Valley in late November and faced stout competition, including a team they played from Denver as part of the National Youth Championship Bowl Series.
Eleven different players scored touchdowns for the junior Panthers, who averaged 35 points per game and outscored opponents 315-52. In the title game at the Skydome on Nov. 4, Tristan Shafer and Marcus Salcido provided touchdowns, with Ivory Washington putting in work defensively with two interceptions. Leading the ground game for the Panthers that day, Jonathan Jaramillo recorded 141 rushing yards on nine carries.