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Youth football display at Arizona Stadium symbolic of Tucson’s productive talent


This could be a long, drawn out piece about the Arizona Wildcats having the nation’s longest losing streak.

Go elsewhere for that tiring news.

What stuck with me Saturday night is how a group of young players ran on to the field with such zest, and the crowd at Arizona Stadium fed into that euphoria by welcoming them with a loud ovation.

These young players know what it takes to have fun and appreciate the opportunity to play football, a game that can’t be taken for granted these days with heightened safety concerns and COVID-19 protocols.

The more than 40,000 fans could feel the excitement of the players being in such a large venue, and the spectators encouraged them with their cheers. The crowd noise grew louder by each yard a player ran closer to the end zone. Although they did not always score, these young players were not shut out from the opportunity to live out their dreams of playing in a college stadium.

Football at its purest.

Tucson’s sports community at its finest.

This commentary is not describing the Arizona football team, now mired in a 17-game losing streak following the 34-16 loss to UCLA, although some of the Wildcats know all about how the youth football players must have felt on the turf at halftime.

Fittingly, two Tucson Youth Football and Spirit Federation alums, Stevie Rocker Jr. and Jamarye Joiner, were a couple of the bright spots for the Wildcats against UCLA on what was Family Night at Arizona Stadium.

Rocker, of Canyon del Oro High School, and Joiner, formerly of Cienega High School, are part of the extended Tucson youth football family that remarkably had memorable days Saturday at Arizona Stadium, in the Red River Shootout at the Cotton Bowl and all the way at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Bijan Robinson, the Salpointe legend who was a two-time Ed Doherty Award winner, further solidified his candidacy for the Heisman with his captivating performance for the Texas Longhorns against the Oklahoma Sooners.

The Longhorns blew a 21-point lead and lost 55-48 to their rivals, but Robinson put on a show that had ESPN commentator Kirk Herbstreit and the college football world buzzing.

He rushed for 137 yards on 20 carries, including a 50-yard burst in the first half in which he zig-zagged down the field, almost reaching the end zone while pushing aside defenders along the way.

“He has everything, vision, patience, power, balance, burst,” Herbsreit told the national TV audience of Robinson, formerly with the Marana Broncos and Tucson Falcons of the TYFSF. “He has spin moves. He can run through you. He can run around you. He can run by you. He’s got it all. And he’s the most humble guy on the roster.”

The product of his grandparents Cleo and Gerri Robinson, Bijan is doing extremely well as an ambassador of Tucson.

Carey, a CDO grad who played for the Tucson Steelers and Marana Broncos, was instrumental in the Calgary Stampeders’ 22-19 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in a Canadian Football League game Saturday.

The opening of the Calgary Sun report states:

Ka’Deem Carey carried the Calgary Stampeders.

After a superstar performance against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, his quarterback wanted to show his appreciation somehow. So, well, Bo Levi Mitchell untied Carey’s shoes.

“I came to the locker room and untied his shoes for him,” Mitchell said. “I was like ‘You carried us on your back, so you stand up’ and I got down and untied his shoes for him.

“That’s how amazing he is. Any extra touch you can get that guy, it’s fun to watch.”

Carey, the most prolific running back in Arizona history, finished with 109 rushing yards on 20 attempts and added 69 receiving yards from five receptions in the win that kept the Stampeders in the CFL playoff hunt. The national champion as part of the Marana Broncos in the sixth grade, Carey did this despite having soreness in his back that almost kept him from playing.

“Well, I woke up, my back was looser. I honestly, the whole week didn’t know if I was going to play,” Carey told the Calgary Sun. “We got 20 carries. Once you get over 15 you start getting in a roll, so that’s what happened.”

Rocker, also a former Marana Broncos standout, experienced his first college football run Saturday, a strong one, for a 9-yard gain. He finished with two carries for 12 yards and had two receptions for 27 yards against the Bruins.

Joiner, a Tucson Falcons product, looked like the poised passer that he was when he played for Pat Nugent at Cienega when Jedd Fisch called a trick play with 30 seconds left in the first half and Arizona at the UCLA 10.

Joiner lined up at receiver, where he plays now after starting his Arizona career at quarterback, and caught a lateral pass from Jordan McCloud. Joiner stepped back and threw a bullet that was hauled in by a wide-open Michael Wiley for the Wildcats’ lone touchdown of the night, cutting UCLA’s lead to 14-13.

It was the first touchdown pass of Joiner’s career with the Wildcats.

The stars aligned on Saturday for Tucson’s youth football scene, a highly successful one with other TYFSF alums now excelling at the high school level.

Those standouts include Canyon del Oro’s Sa’Kylee Woodard, Chance Cassell and Kayden Luke (all of the Oro Dolphins 13U city championship team in 2019), Salpointe’s Luis Cordova (Tucson Raiders), Pusch Ridge’s Tyler Mustain and Bubba Mustain (also of the Dolphins) and Ryan Fontaine (Vail Vikings), and Sabino’s Cameron Hackworth (Tucson Raiders) and Savaughn Berryhill (Tucson Falcons), just to name a few.

Family Night at Arizona Stadium meant more than the families of Arizona students sitting in the stands.

It stood for Tucson as a family becoming a better place because of the city’s youth — including the likes of Bijan Robinson, Ka’Deem Carey, Jamarye Joiner and Stevie Rocker Jr. — showing what good can come out of this community.

The halftime display of the youth football teams on the Arizona Stadium turf could not have come at a better time.

That 17-game losing streak takes a back seat.

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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District

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