Arizona Jaguars have chance to play in youth nationals The Chandler Arizonan

Arizona Jaguars have chance to play in youth nationals

November 17th, 2020 Chandler Arizona Staff
Arizona Jaguars have chance to play in youth nationals
Sports and Recreation

By Zach Alvira
Arizonan Sports Editor

A Valley youth football team has received the opportunity of a lifetime, as it will fly to Florida in early December to compete for a national championship at the 12U level.

The Arizona Jaguars, coached by former NFL defensive lineman and current Desert Vista line coach Derek Kennard Jr., received the invitation to the National Youth Championships for the American Youth Football League from Dec. 4-12, one of the largest national tournaments on the youth football circuit.

“We want to represent Arizona,” Kennard said. “It’s an honor to be going out there and it will be an awesome experience for our kids. Our goal is to win a championship.”

Kennard founded the Jags organization three years ago when his son, Derek “Tre” Kennard III, was 9 years old. The team is made up of players from all over the Valley, including many from Ahwatukee, Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa. Kennard said it’s also common for parents from northwest Phoenix drive to Tempe or Pecos Park in Ahwatukee for their kids to join the Jags.

While only two games into the regular season against league competition, the Jags played a prestigious preseason schedule which helped earn the invitation. Kennard said his team faced several out-of-state teams, including some from California and the surrounding states.

Overall, the Jags sit at 8-1 on the year, most of which having come during preseason.

“We’ve been stacking up our competition so we could get the best looks possible,” Kennard said. “We just want to make sure we are as prepared as possible for when we go to Florida.”

Kennard hopes to make it a trip of a lifetime for his players. But that comes with a price.

The Jags have spent much of the month fundraising any way they can to help pay for every player to travel to Florida. Kennard aims to use the funds raised to pay for flights, three large rental vans and two Airbnb houses where players, coaches and the parents able to go can stay.

Kennard estimates the total trip to be around $20,000, which also includes fees to compete at nationals and food for everyone for the week.

The Jags have done everything from selling promotional cards to fundraisers at local restaurants. On Thursday, Oct. 29, Some Burros in Ahwatukee donated 30 percent of all pre-taxed food sales to the Jags. Kennard said the team is also accepting donations via Venmo, Cash App and GoFundMe.

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