BY PETE MOHR | JUNE 16, 2010

'Whut it wuz … wuz football!' In May, no less, Warriors-style

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CAVE CREEK – I’m confident that there are readers out there who remember Andy Griffith’s first hit record (1953?) about a country boy attending his first football game. The wide-eyed young man is offered a drink of whiskey by a fellow spectator, who urged, “Buddy, have a drink!” Andy answered with what became one of his early comedy signatures, “Mister, I think I’ll have a Big Orange!” 

Several months thereafter, summer-vacationing with my parents at The Inn, Ponte Vedra, Fla., I actually had the beyond random chance to shake hands with Andy Griffith, as I tagged along with a teen-age “buddy’ who was renting him a beach umbrella. Andy, as a stand-up comic, was appearing as that Saturday night’s entertainment at the resort’s Beach Club. Fifty-seven years: “Whut it wuz … wuz football!” Now that’s an enjoyably-remembered football time capsule.

coach dan larsonI can’t tell you why; but I had that flashback, late Saturday morning, May 22, as I made the long drive from my north Scottsdale apartment to Centennial High School, where the Desert Foothills Warriors, coached by Creeker Dan Larson, were taking on the West Side Miners in the final regular season game for both teams. “Whut this wuz,” as I quickly discovered, was some pretty entertaining eight-man football under the auspices of National Youth Sports.

The Warriors shafted the Miners, 26-0, to finish at an unbeaten 8-0. (The team looks forward to the possibility of a tournament in The Valley later this month or early July.) TDs were scored, in order, by Mike Leonard, Joe Kuhlmann (2) and Bam Larson, with Brad Metz connecting with Kuhlmann for two-points following Larson’s six. On the game’s final play, Liam Morales had a spectacular 60-yard INT runback for a touchdown nullified by a penalty.

Postgame, Coach Larson to Sonoran News: “We played bigger teams, older teams, faster teams, and even more athletic teams; but we never played a team that had a bigger heart or greater determination. These 11 boys jelled like no team I’ve ever coached in my 14 years on the sideline.”

football warriors
High and well-deserved praise for these Warriors: (back, l-r) Hunter Bross, Bradley Kleitsch, Morales, Leonard, Kuhlmann, Larson; (front, l-r) Metz, Justin Reevs, Lance Puryear, Garrett Alcarez, Tyler Kirby. Smack in the middle of the front row: team mascot Thomas Larson, 7, this writer’s favorite little boy in the whole, wide world!

Thanks, Coach Larson and Warriors, for my introduction to eight-man football. Whew! It was some kind of hot out there!

“Mister, I think I’ll have another ‘Big Orange’!”