Next month, the Arizona Cactus Football League will kick off its inaugural season as 15 teams come in with something to prove. The majority of the teams vying to become champions have at least a few seasons of experience under their belts, but the East Valley Vipers come in as a bit of an unknown as they enter their first ever season.
“We are looking forward to making our franchise name known for quality and leadership, while creating an overall winning organization,” Vipers head coach Robert Penn told Developmental Football USA.
Some teams new to this level come in hoping to just finish the season and build a foundation for the future, while other teams define success by whether or not they made the playoffs. The Vipers, however, have their sights set on something more.
“Our goal for this season is a championship,” Penn said. “What’s equally important is that we build a culture that is considered first class at this level. Honesty, integrity, loyalty, respect and love is what we pride our program on.”
Coach Penn, and his wife Alicia – who owns the team – has seen enough around this level to know that a solid foundation must be built to become a brand that lasts.
Teams around the league know to bring their best game against the likes of the Southwest Stampede, the Kalvary Lions, Central Valley Sergeants, Phoenix Outlaws and Arizona Spartans, but can the Vipers establish themselves in that group of top teams?
“I believe we can match up with any team in the league,” Penn said. “We’re just as talented and have even better coaches with offensive coordinator Andy Montano and defensive coordinator Jeffrey Lee.”
As this young team grows and develops chemistry with each other, which they will need to face the adversity that comes with every football season, players will look to some of the veteran players on both sides of the ball for their leadership.
Offensively, wide receivers Alexander Jackson-Anderson and Lawrence Arnold look to be those guys for the Vipers and Arnold will look to do the same on defensive, along with linebacker Norman McGinn.
“Those guys bring a combination of strong leadership, talent and work ethic,” Penn said.
The direction of the new AZCFL has created plenty of excitement in the air in Arizona and teams are eager to kick things off. While teams know that any Saturday is capable of being full of surprises, the Vipers are looking to square off against one team in particular.
“I have our game Week 3 against the Tempe Owls circled,” Penn said. “That will be our first game against an East Valley team, the Tempe Owls, as we set out to dominate the East Valley.”