Local HS athletes flock to ACU inaugural football program

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                </div>  Dajon Staton is a wide receiver from Imperial High School in California who broke school records there for most career receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns.  After he graduates in […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Dajon Staton is a wide receiver from Imperial High School in California who broke school records there for most career receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns.  After he graduates in May, he will be re-uniting with his high school teammate, offensive lineman Evan Pumphrey, since they both have signed on to play for Arizona Christian University in its very first year of football competition.

And there’s Scott Kuhn, a speedy, but undersized halfback at 5’7″ and 160 pounds, who will come from his high school in Idaho to join the Firestorm for the inaugural season.

But they are the exceptions.  Three-quarters of the ACU roster is being filled by local kids grateful for the chance to continue their playing careers – and do it without leaving home.  That’s a big recruiting tool for the coaching staff and was one of the reasons why Staton and Pumphrey gave serious consideration to playing for an unproven program; California’s not far away and their parents and coaches could get to their home games.

Head coach Donnie Yantis, also a local who was head coach at nearby Paradise Valley High School, signed 60 players on National Signing Day earlier this month, and 45 of those were from in-state schools.  And that’s how it was envisioned from the beginning.

“”We believe in the quality and depth of Arizona high school football,” said university president, Len Munsil, when hiring Yantis.  “And we believe, as the only small college football program in the state, that we can attract and compete nationally by recruiting outstanding local athletes.”

Munsil said when announcing the addition of the school’s sixteenth sports program that he had been contemplating the move for some time because he felt there was a niche in the marketplace for a four-year college program that would provide a landing place for local athletes that don’t get picked up by the larger Division I programs in the state.  

The new football team will compete as an NAIA independent for its first season, but the school, which has roughly 600 students on the campus in west Phoenix, is considering finding a football-only conference to join a little farther down the road. For now, home games will likely be played at a large high school or community college in the Phoenix area.

There was a wide range of local schools jumping on board at signing day, and some schools are represented by more than one player.  They include schools like Dobson High (Brennin Miller, DL, Duncan Kastilahn, DB, Martin Tew, DB, and Shaun Sabetta, OL), Apollo High (Nick Campbell, DL, and Josh Turner, DL), and Sunrise Mountain High School (Zach Washington, DL, and Grant Oulton, OL).

Understandably the Christian high schools are well represented with at least one from Scottsdale Christian Academy, Scottsdale Christian, Northwest Christian, Joy Christian, and Phoenix Christian.

“Our entire football coaching staff has done an outstanding job in researching, evaluating, recruiting, hosting, developing relationships, getting commitments, and finally signing the best non-division I football student-athletes the state of Arizona has to offer,” said the 42-year-old Yantis in assessing his first recruiting class.

This will be a good chance to find out whether Arizona talent will be enough to carry the load for the small Christian college.

However, a few extra prayers wouldn’t hurt.

(Photo: Idaho State Journal)