The Phoenix Phantoms had a strong start to the 2018 season and for much of the year looked like they were going to make a run at the Arizona Gridiron Football League Championship. While they ended up falling short of that goal last year, the slate is clean in 2019 and the Phantoms believe this can be their year.
“The goal is to win the championship,” Phantoms owner Derrick Parham told Developmental Football USA. “With this being a brand new league, everyone will be looking to make a statement and etch their name in the AZCFL history book as the first league champion. We are looking to be the first league champion to three-peat. To do that, we will need everybody to buy into the new philosophy and play for the team, not for themselves, not for personal stats and goals. TBM – Team Before Me.”
Like many teams, the Phantoms have made some pretty big changes this off-season and, on paper, it looks like this organization could be seriously revamped.
“We hired a great coaching staff,” Parham said. “We brought in a championship winning head coach Brad Chocholusek, NFL Super Bowl winner Antoine McClain to teach our offensive line, soon-to-be Minor League Hall of Fame wide receiver, Derrick ‘Stretch’ Parham to lead the offense, and High School Coach of the Year Finalist and 2A Regional Coach of the Year Danny Norris to assist Brad on the defensive side.”
Norris and Chocholusek have plenty to be excited about in the group they get to coach this season.
“Defensively, we have probably the most talent the Phantoms have ever had,” Parham said. “Team captain Michael Maccagnano Jr. leads the bunch with his great knowledge of the game and how it should be played. Justin Barnes and Ashton Young bring the heat and great intensity as well.”
Offensively, the Phantoms have added a few pieces to the puzzle and have the potential to have a pretty potent offense.
“We have a group of heavy-hitting running backs led by Steve Baylark Jr. and newcomer Seth Smith,” Parham said. “Our receiving core is better than ever with some great additions to last year’s with Antonio Johnson and Marco Jimmerson.”
As is seen too often at this level, talent doesn’t always get the job done, especially if the guys can’t work together as one unit. Veteran teams like the Phantoms know this, that’s why they’ve chosen a certain emphasis for this season.
“The Phoenix Phantoms are not just a team, we are PHAMILY,” Parham said. “This year we have a great mix of veteran leadership and eager young players.”
Right now, the Phantoms have a bit of a chip on their shoulder. After going through a large portion of 2018 ranked in the top two of their league, that isn’t the case going into this season.
“The pre-season rankings came out and we were posted at No. 8,” Parham said. “So, all games are circled with something to prove, especially against those that are ranked one through seven.”
Any title-worthy team will have to knock off last year’s champion at some point and that is no small task.
“Clearly, the Southwest Stampede is the team to beat,” Parham said. “They have a great organization and coaching staff. Besides, they are the current champs and to be the best you have to beat the best.”