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Updated Nov 30, 2013 - 1:39 pm

Phoenix Pop Warner team to play for national championship

(KTAR Photo/Bob McClay)

PHOENIX -- The Arizona State Sun Devils will take on Stanford for the Pac-12 championship in college football on Dec. 7.

But the Sun Devils aren't the only Valley football team about to play for a trophy.

The Northeast Pride Pop Warner football team from north Phoenix won the California Regional last week. The undefeated team is now 12-0 for the season, and it will play in the Junior Midget Division National Championship game next week in Orlando. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN, which will officially announce whom Northeast Pride's opponent will be on Tuesday.

During an appearance on News/Talk 92.3 KTAR's Arizona's Morning News Weekend Show on Saturday, Northeast Pride head coach Joe De La Vara said that he's proud of his team.

"This team is built with a bunch of All-Stars. We literally have All-Stars at every single position," De La Vara said. "They're a bunch of unselfish kids that are just great athletes. We're blessed. We've got talent at every single position on the field."

The team is made up of mostly eighth-graders. One player, Marshawn Gibson, said he wants to win the championship for his parents.

"Both of my parents have been diagnosed with cancer," said Gibson. "We've been fighting through it this whole time."

Gibson does not believe his parents will be able to make the trip to Orlando to see him play, but he knows they'll be watching on television back home in Phoenix.

In order to play for the championship, the Northeast Pride team needs money.

"We have to raise almost $25,000 to get 19 kids and support staff to Orlando," De La Vara said. "It's a huge mountain to climb in a very short time."

The team is asking for help, and they have set up a website for donations at

Northeast Pride is one of three Valley Pop Warner teams that will be going for championships in Orlando. The others are the Farwest Jets Pee Wee team and the Deer Valley Crusaders Junior Pee Wee team.

All of the teams are hosting fundraisers to make the trip.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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