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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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
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
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
“We have a good group of guys, and I have a lot of talented
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
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
“Our speed just dominates people,” Rivera said. “We work as a
team. We play hard and trust each other. There’s a lot of
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
“We hit and hit and hit,” Rivera said. “We pretty much smashed
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
“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 www.dcreign.org. Game
photos and YouTube videos are also available at the team’s
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