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Phoenix Pop Warner team to play for national championship

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.