Team aims for football Reign

Posted 6/25/11

Semi-professional and minor league football never seem to leave the south metro Denver area for long. While the Rocky Mountain Renegades started …

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Team aims for football Reign


Semi-professional and minor league football never seem to leave the south metro Denver area for long.

While the Rocky Mountain Renegades started their inaugural season in the Alliance Football League last year in Castle Rock, another AFL expansion was born this year: the Douglas County Reign.

Owned by linebacker Shua Reign and his wife Stephany Azar, the DC Reign made itself a home at Shea Stadium in Highlands Ranch while practicing at public schools in the area. Shua Reign played for the Rocky Mountain Renegades last year before moving onto his own franchise.

For this season, the Renegades moved their home field from Castle View High School to Montbello High School in Denver, but they’ve been back to Douglas County this year. In fact, the DC Reign played host to the Renegades May 27 at Shea and defeated Rocky Mountain 44-14 to open the first season of the latest Douglas County-based minor league football team.

After a road win against the Wyoming Knights June 18, the Reign is off to a 3-0 start.

“We have great communication,” Reign quarterback Anthony James said. “We have good work ethic and good sportsmanship. We play hard from the beginning of the game to the end, and we never give up.

“We have a good group of guys, and I have a lot of talented teammates.”

The DC Reign is one of four minor league or semi-professional football teams to make a home in Douglas County in the past six years. In 2005, the Colorado Football Conference had a team expand to Douglas County Schools Stadium, the Mile Hi Panthers, which was unable to finish its first season due to a meltdown among its administrative and coaching staff.

The AFL’s Rocky Mountain Renegades started up in Castle Rock before moving to Denver after its first year.

This year, not only is the DC Reign in action for its first season, but across the Interstate in Parker, the Colorado Football Conference has reemerged with the Colorado Cobras making a new home at Sports Authority Stadium.

One of first things that may help the Reign stand out among the competition are its uniforms, James said. However, the team’s offensive diversity may be what impresses spectators.

“We’re just talented on both sides,” said James, a Skyview High School graduate. “We’re talented in our running backs and our receivers. We can attack you from the ground or in the air.”

James has been playing football since he was 5 years old. Now at 22, the quarterback didn’t get an opportunity to play football at the collegiate level, making minor league teams like the Reign his and others’ chance to keep football in their lives and be noticed.

Leading the coaching staff for the DC Reign is Mike Rivera, who coached the Colorado Rebels last year to a successful season. Once he took the job with DC, about 15 players came over from the Rebels to try out for the new team. With them came an already built in chemistry. But Rivera said the team starts with its ownership.

“I think the team starts off from the ownership,” he said. “Stephany and Shua are very good owners. They are on top of things, [including] uniforms, equipment and making sure the field is set. ... The business side is awesome.”

With coaching staff in place and working together, Rivera said its the DC Reign’s speed that makes the most problems for opponents.

“Our speed just dominates people,” Rivera said. “We work as a team. We play hard and trust each other. There’s a lot of trust.”

On defense, the coach feels a lot of fast teams they face tend to get beaten down with the Reign’s strength. One example was the team’s 33-6 destruction of the high-ranked Grand Junction Gladiators.

“We hit and hit and hit,” Rivera said. “We pretty much smashed them.”

The Gladiators had a talented running back which has given teams a lot of trouble, but the Reign managed to stop him. Since that game, that running back, named Jesse Kirstatter, moved to Denver and is now wearing the red and yellow jersey of the DC Reign.

Players like Kirstatter and Julian Banks, of whom Rivera boasts for his speed and versatility, among others play a variety of positions for the No. 1-ranked team. Rivera said the AFL Superbowl is definitely a team goal.

“We want to prove we are one of the best teams in Colorado, and we want to represent Colorado,” the coach said.

Some of these teams, with self-marketing and help from administration, could lead to a spot with a higher-level professional team. In fact, many of the players in league’s like the AFL are former athletes from the National Football League and professional arena football teams.

That is something James, who played with the Colorado Rebels prior to the DC Reign, enjoys most about playing at this level.

“It shows where your talent is at when your playing against ex-pros and ex-arena football players and players who have been at that higher level,” James said.

First-time owners Stephany Azar and Shua Reign said they wanted to make the team as much a community outreach organization as it was a high-quality football team. In addition, giving players the chance to gain exposure for collegiate prospects and opportunities to play at a higher level was also a main focus.

“We have really high goals, not just for the football team, but as an organization,” Azar said. “We’re already doing some mentoring with youths. ... We treat each other more like family, and we just want to reach out to the community as a team.”

When the team was getting put together, the Reign’s administration was not only looking for talent on the field but strength of character.

“We wanted guys who would play with class, who would play with pride,” Azar said. “”In semi-pro, a lot of people will try to put teams together and become unsuccessful. We looked for people who deserve to be playing at the higher levels. ... Our main goal [for them] is to get their names out there and help them have a better future. That’s what we’re here for.”

Both Azar and Reign work full time jobs and manage the team. In addition, the couple has a 1-year-old baby and one on the way.

“Day in-day out, its like a full time job,” Azar said. “We aren’t in it for the profits. Really we’re in it for these guys and the community. Even guys who need development, they can use us as a developmental program.

“No matter how challenging it may get, even for some guys financially, we’re still here for them. It’s one full time job we’ll never give up.”

More information on the Douglas County Reign, its staff and players can be found at the team’s website Game photos and YouTube videos are also available at the team’s site.


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