The Stampede boast three titles since forming as a team, with the most recent coming last season in 2018. The 2018 season was a culmination of a three year run that saw the Stampede in the title game each and every year — with the first two games in 2016 and 2017 seeing the team lose by a combined 12 points.
It was an improbable run, according to owner Sean Lanzarotto, who explained to Developmental Football USA that 2018 was memorable not just because of the state championship, but because the team had lost a majority of its players and coaches that had led to the Stampede’s success the past two seasons.
“The Stampede was supposed to drop off in talent and it was said to be a rebuilding year, and all we did was reload,” he boasted. “The 2018 squad made it possible to finish the season the way we set out in the beginning. They all believed and trusted in our coaching staff. I appreciate all the hard work Coach Ronald Gordon, Dominic Willis, Onrea Jones, Tony Root, and Sergio Bakalos put in to make it happen.”
There’s speculation out there that the Stampede could be even better in 2019, and those aren’t expectations Lanzarotto is shying away from.
“I believe we are better as a team this year. We have great leaders and captains that take on the responsibility and accountability of the team. Most of all of our starters are coming back plus new additions that will fill in for guys that stepped away from the game and retired.”
The owner explained that his message to the team is simple: stay hungry and humble.
“Most of us on the team now know how to get there. Being the defending champs we will get everyone’s A game,” he said. “Repeating is always a hard task, but with the players buying into the system and trust the coaches we should be able to make another run at it.”
Leading the offense for the Stampede will be quarterback Rico McNeal, who Lanzarotto called “a true leader”. The owner is also expecting big seasons from running backs Brian Conley and Charles James.
“Brian is our every down back and he is hard to bring down with great hands out of the backfield. I expect another great season from him,” he explained. “James is our versatile offensive threat. He can play multiple positions with the capability to break it on any play.”
Southwest is also expected to be very good up-front on the offensive line. Leading the unit will be Center/Guard Alexander Williams, Right Tackle Edgar Salvatierra, Left Tackle Derek McClure, Right Guard Demitri Sauve, Guard/Tackle Larry Brady, and Guard Robert Elms.
Linebacker Dominic Willis is expected to play a huge role for the Stampede in 2019, being that he’s not only a player on the team but he’s also a coach.
“He gets everyone in the right spots to be successful and makes plays himself too,” Lanzarotto explained.
Safety Karl Evans is a ball hawk who will always be in the right position to make plays for the Stampede, and he’ll be looking to
improve on a season that saw him lead Southwest’s last league in interceptions Also in the defensive backfield is cornerback Martin Tew, who the owner had high praise for.
“Good luck to all the wide receivers getting off his press coverage. He’s the true meaning of a shutdown corner.”
Lanzarotto was honest in relaying that at first he was hesitant to move the Stampede into a brand new league, considering the fact that the AZCFL — as good as it appears to be — has yet to prove itself. With that said, he told DFUSA that he was extremely impressed with the presentation done by commissioner Matt Archer and director of players Rafiel Lee, and he feels confident in the long-term future of the league.
“They have invested a lot to get this off the ground and with everything they have done so far and what’s in the works, that
confirms that the Cactus Football League will be around for a long time,” Lanzarotto said.
The Stampede kick off their 2019 schedule against the Kalvary Lions.