Developmental football in Arizona took a major turn a few months ago with the birth of the Arizona Cactus Football League and there has been no shortage of hype as they head into their inaugural season. Many storied franchises quickly joined the AZCFL, including the Scottsdale Crusaders.
“It is good to see a league try and take football to a new level with new ideas,” Crusaders owner Byron Autry told Developmental Football USA.
Like several other AZCFL organizations, bringing in the Crusaders was huge for the new league.
“To be able to bring in a team from the longest running league in Arizona, and probably one of the longest at this level across the nation, was huge,” AZCFL Commissioner Matt Archer told Developmental Football USA. “They have been a competitive team for a while in that other league and bringing them in raised alot of notice.”
A championship won’t come easy for any team in the AZCFL, due to the tough lineup of teams, but the Crusaders should be in the hunt with their strong pedigree. In their first nine years, they reached the AZFL Championship Game five times.
“We take each game as a big threat because any team is capable of winning the championship,” Autry said..
And Autry is right. You’ve got the Southwest Stampede, Tucson Thunder, Arizona Spartans, Phoenix Outlaws, Tucson Desert Demons, East Valley Ravens, Phoenix Phantoms, South Pheonix Runnin’ Rebels, among others, and only one will hoist the trophy at season’s end.
Last year, most AZCFL members competed in the Arizona Gridiron Football League and the Stampede won the championship over the Spartans.
“Right now it is kind of hard to really determine however everyone will stack up,” Archer said. “We are about six weeks out and players are still moving around and trying to find their ‘home’ for the season. If I had to say, as of today, I think the Crusaders will hold their own and surprise a lot of other teams if they are taken lightly.”
While it goes without question that the Crusaders will field a talented team, Autry didn’t want to single out any of his guys for fans to keep an eye on. Because, for the Crusaders, it’s about much more than football.
“Our foundation is Christian based, that is why we have crosses down the center of our helmets,” Autry said. “Our vision for the future is to provide an opportunity for our players to have fun. My goal for this season is to have fun and to provide an opportunity for my players to compete.”
The title hunt for each team begins when the AZCFL kicks off in just a few short weeks.
“Byron and Lynn have been the rock and foundation of the Crusaders for a long time,” Archer said. “As long as they continue to be at the front, the team will be there with them. One thing I think they have going for them is the element of surprise. They aren’t ranked super high because they come from another league with less talent and not many AZCFL teams have played team. They will have a few upsets this season and I look forward to those games.”
For more information on the AZCFL, check out www.azcfl.com. On Jan. 19, fans will be able to watch some live action at 7 p.m.