The third and fourth grade Payson Bears practiced Aug. 18 in preparation for the upcoming season, Payson’s first in the new Northeastern Arizona Youth Football League.
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Say goodbye to the Central Arizona Football Association and hello to the Northeastern Arizona Youth Football League.
The introductions are necessary because CAYFA dissolved and Payson youth football teams have moved to the NAYFL program.
Local youth football volunteer Felicia Moore is unsure why CAFYA folded, except “there were a lot of people unhappy with the way things were being run,” but believes the Payson teams will benefit from the move to NAYFL.
“Now we will be playing the same teams that the high school does – Show Low, Blue Ridge, Winslow and Snowflake,” she said.
As a member of CAYFA for the past five years, Payson youth teams played mostly teams from the Chino Valley, Cottonwood and Prescott regions.
The lone exception to moving to playing White Mountain area teams this season will be the major division Raiders coached by long time veteran Billy Hardt.
Moore said because NAYFL does not field seventh and eighth grade teams, which is what the Raiders are, the Payson team will play in a Flagstaff area junior high/middle school aged league.
Although registration is closed for most of the league, the major Raiders continue to accept new applications.
“They are short of players,” Moore said.
Among the biggest changes in the new league, other than playing different teams than last year, is the players will be assigned to programs based on their school grade level rather than their age, height and weight as they were in CAYFA.
This year, 150 youths plus a band of cheerleaders showed up for the first day of practice on Aug. 3. Since, all the players have been assigned to one of the five teams Payson will field.
In the mighty mite division, for first and second graders, Payson has entered the Raiders coached by Noah Sarnowski.
“The kids are young but doing really well and Noah is so patient working with them,” Moore said.
In the minor division, for third and fourth graders, Payson will enter the Raiders and the Bears.
Payson also fields two teams in the junior division for fifth and sixth graders. Grant Owens is coaching the Bears and Chris Barr the Raiders.
Currently all the teams are practicing 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at Rumsey Park. The season kicks off Sept. 12 with a full slate of games, two in Payson. For more information or to volunteer, call Moore at (928) 476-5440.