Talon News - Good Local News

By Staff



November 9, 2018


by TALON Staff

Aztec Apes, a Youth American Football League (YAFL) team, have a long, rich history in Aztec. Its beginnings are traced to a casual offer by Tony DiGiacomo when his oldest son became eligible to play, "Tell the coach I'll help in any way I can". That was on a Saturday, the following Monday he learned he was the head coach! Though Tony knew how to play football he admits, "I didn't know anything about coaching football!" He remembers the first thing he did was call his brother Fred, and co-worker Dusty Perry for help. That was 27 years ago!

At that time the team name was Dolphins, and they went to the YAFL Super Bowl the first year. Tony reminisces with a smile, "We got smoked!" Obviously, that has not affected the coaching team's enthusiasm, or their accomplishments. Check out the Aztec Apes site and you will recognize their season records are impressive.

But, visiting with Tony it is obvious that winning and records are not the most important things for the Apes. He emotes, "We're teaching them- not just about football, but about life lessons, responsibility, respect, those kind of values". The current coaching staff that includes Tony & Fred DiGiacomo, Dustin Titus, Casey DiGiacomo (Tony's son), Brian Garcia, Kenny Light and the Apes mascot, Karen DiGiacomo (Fred's wife), all concur, "That's what we want to do for them". They think it is important to make it as enjoyable as possible when the players are at practice, to be inclusive, give them structure and rules. Tony notes there are times that player's actions warrant disciplinary actions and options may include prohibiting them from practice or playing, but, "Who are we if we give up?" Apes coaches believe that keeping kids on the field builds self-esteem, confidence and brotherhood. And, those experiences develop teamwork and work ethic.

Ironically, the entire Apes coaching staff lives in Farmington. Player parents help on the field and behind the sidelines and Tony acknowledges that when the parents are engaged and supportive it makes a difference! Initially, Tony did live in Aztec, but now lives Farmington. Regarding coaching, Tony confides, "It's a huge commitment!" He says he and the coaching staff pretty much plan their entire lives around the potential July to November Apes season each year. At the same time the coaches agree that they, "Can't imagine coaching anywhere else!" and that they, "Want to remain loyal to Aztec". Pondering the possibility of coaching elsewhere or simply not coaching at all, it seems they always come back to the influence of the upcoming players. Tony shares that when they get on the field with the Aztec players and see the joy in their eyes after experiencing success they cannot walk away, "There's just no question". Tony's wife, Beth McGuiness agrees that if coaching makes Tony happy he should continue doing it!

If you are wondering how the Dolphins became the Apes, there is a story. The DiGiacomos took the Dolphin team name without question. But, when National Football League (NFL) Panthers got approved to join the league it piqued Aztec YAFL Dolphin coach's interest about whether they could change their team name. They went through the proper channels and got approval to change the name of their Aztec team to Panthers. They also adopted the same turquoise and black colors as the NFL team. But, when burgeoning Piedra Vista High School chose the same name and colors, San Juan County fans began confusing the Aztec team with Farmington YAFL circuit. That spurred the inception of the Aztec Apes. This paralleled the ruling that YAFL teams wear the colors of their district's high school, so the Apes adopted the Aztec Tiger orange and black.

Aztec definitely went Apes! Casey created the logo and Karen chose to sport the Ape mascot costume. Karen is an essential part of the team and important to the game atmosphere. Tony commends her dedication, "She gets (the) sidelines involved, (the) team fired up and dances with the cheerleaders". He recognizes there are time that he knows it is not coamfortable in that suit! But, it does not extinguish her spirit. The Apes continue to remain an Aztec tradition.


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