Being a first-time participant in a national tournament, most people told the Marana Broncos 8U squad not to expect a championship. Luckily the Broncos did not listen to the so-called experts because after one week and two wins the Broncos took home the win in the national bracket of the National Youth Football Conference tournament in Las Vegas.
The Broncos earned the title with wins over teams from Utah and California. They beat the team from Utah 37-7, despite giving up a lot of size.
“They had us in size, but we had them on speed,” said Head Coach Jason Hawkins. “They were definitely bigger than us, but we had the speed advantage, our kids were the better athletes.”
The Broncos’ biggest player weighs 97 pounds, while the team from Utah had five players who weighted 107 pounds.
Hawkins credited his assistants with coming up with a great game plan to utilize his team’s speed and use Utah’s size against them.
The core of this team, as well as the bulk of the coaching staff, have been together for three seasons, getting their start in flag football and moving on to tackle this season.
Most of the team will be together next year when they move up an age bracket. Over the past three seasons the Bronco team has lost just three games. They finished the regular season undefeated but were upset during the Tucson city playoffs. Their regular season accomplishments are what qualified them for the national tournament.
The team spent nearly a week, including Thanksgiving, in Las Vegas. In addition to a pair of football game and the awards banquet, the coaches did their best to find age appropriate activities for the kids on the team including outings to Adventure Dome, Dave & Busters and having Thanksgiving dinner as a team at the hotel.
This is nothing new for this group as they have grown very close over the past few years. The players and the parents have become friends and spend time away from football together, something Hawkins feels has made them a better team.
“We consider ourselves a really close knit group,” Hawkins said. “Even in the offseason we still hang out. The families hang out on weekends. We will se each other over Christmas and New Years.”
The Dec. 30 Arizona Bowl will feature a familiar face for local fans as former Ironwood Ridge quarterback Tyler Williams will compete with Air Force as they take on South Alabama. The Falcons went 9-3 this season and Williams has played a variety of roles for the team, playing quarterback, running back and wide receiver. Williams has rushed 41 times for 228 yards and five scores. He has added a trio of catches and attempted two passes during his junior season.
As a sophomore he also ran back kicks.
Williams was under center for Ironwood Ridge and helped guide the 2012 state title as a junior.
Five local area teams competed in the Brandon Bean Soccer Tournament, but only one advanced out of pool play in arguably the most competitive holiday tournament in Southern Arizona.
The Ironwood Ridge girls went 1-0-1 in pool play, beating Desert View 10-0 and earning a 1-1 draw with Tucson High. Those results earned them the No. 4 seed in the 8-team tournament where they fell 1-0 to No. 5 Sahuaro.
Their male counterparts did not fare as well. The Nighthawk boys dropped their first to games, falling to Desert View 1-0 and Tucson High 4-2, before edging Marana 3-2. The Tigers failed to win a game in the event, also losing 3-0 and 4-0 to Tucson and Desert View.
Mountain View also had boys and girls teams in the tournament, but neither advanced past the pool stage. The boys went 0-3, being shut out in all three contests. The girls faired a little better. They opened the event with a 3-2 win over Rincon, but then lost their next two to Cienega and Catalina Foothills.