Basketball probably is the most popular sport in the Navajo Nation and northeast Arizona, but football also is gaining a strong foothold.
Bryan Begay, entering his eighth season as football coach at Monument Valley High in Kayenta, is doing all he can to keep it going, starting in early summer with the Northern Arizona 4 Corners Passing Tournament.
The 2014 event, sponsored by Universal Athletics, was held on Saturday (May 31) on the artificial turf at Monument Valley High, the school’s baseball field and at Kayenta Middle School.
Participating teams were Monument Valley, Miyamura (Gallup, N.M.), Chinle, Fort Defiance Window Rock, Cottonwood Mingus, Camp Verde, Flagstaff Coconino, Tuba City, Page, Ignacio (Colo.), and Navajo Prep (Farmington, N.M.). There even were a few junior-varsity squads thrown in for good measure.
Monument Valley defeated rival Tuba City to reach the tournament final, while Coconino defeated Mingus. Monument Valley then stopped Coconino to earn the title.
“In 2007, when I took over as the head football coach, I had a big idea of hosting a passing tournament every year in the last part of May or early June to get the whole passing tournament season started among Arizona competition,’’ Begay said. “My goal was to get some top level football programs involved with some of the out-of-state teams. This was the biggest our tournament has been in 2014, so I consider it a success.
“I love doing things like this and seeing kids have fun through competition. I wanted to create an atmosphere where kids can learn offensive and defensive concepts and be competitive at the same time.’’
The Mustangs of Monument Valley graduated several seniors, so younger players will have to step it up this fall.
“We need to get bigger, faster and stronger,’’ Begay said.
Begay and his team will continue to stay busy in the summer.
The Mustangs will play in the Show Low Air it Out and Big Man Challenge June 20-21, at Camp Verde June 26, at Durango, Colo., on June 28, and participate in their own Mustang Football Camp from July 21-25. In that event, several former Monument Valley players will return to assist Begay and pass along their knowledge.