During a brief break from practice, a few Southeastern Lightning players take time for a picture. From left are Silverio Huandurraga, Dino Monaco, Joshua Mata and Anthony Orduno.

THATCHER — Hut, hut, hike! With no juco football at Eastern Arizona College anymore, that leaves it up to the Southeastern Lightning to step in and fill the void.

With former players, coaches and team owners, and the overall love of the game, semi-pro football keeps the dream alive for many athletes age 18 and older.

Southeastern Lightning team owner Joshua Mata is excited to bring a semi-pro team to the Gila Valley.

“I brought this team into Thatcher because of the college football program not being available anymore. Having a team here gives our town and football players a chance to play since they can’t play for the local college anymore.”

At the moment, Mata and the Lightning are looking for sponsorships from local businesses to join the Arizona Cactus football league in February.

“I have been playing football for five years and one year of semi-pro football, but this will be my first season with the Lightning,” said 35-year old Dino Monaco. “This season, I’m just looking to get out there and be able to play the game I still love.”

The Lightning gives those former football players a chance to play and an opportunity to be seen by other organizations.

On Saturday, Oct. 26, at 3 p.m., the Lightning will be hosting open tryouts at the Thatcher Park for men and women 18 and older from Graham and Greenlee counties.

“The open tryouts are for fresh, new people who can play the game and more. I want it to be a community-based team, something Graham County can be proud of,” Mata said.

The open tryouts will consist of several different drills, such as position drills, a 40-yard dash and short shuffles.

“We have our practices several days a week at the Thatcher Park, and we will be playing our games at Pima High School,” Mata said. “And women are encouraged to try out. It would be great to have a female player on the team.”

To get more information call Joshua Mata at (928) 965-5339 or go to the Lightning’s Facebook page @lightningsemipro.

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