Youth football teams from Dixmoor and Robbins raise funds for Florida trips — and eye national championships – Boston Herald
When the Robbins Eagles youth football organization was founded in 1983, it was seen as a way to “give kids something to do and to give them the chance we didn’t have,” according to Bernard Ward, who helped start the program.
Now, on the 40th anniversary of the team’s founding, the Eagles will play on the national stage as the team advances to the American Youth Football League championship in Naples, Florida.
“They are going to represent the whole Midwest,” Ward said at a pep rally Tuesday. “It’s the best investment we ever made.”
They will be in Florida at the same time as the Dixmoor Vikings are fielding two teams vying for the title in the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Orlando.
Vikings coach Dwayne Tyson will bring a team that came in second at last year’s competition, falling shy of the title primarily because he and some other coaches and players came down with the flu at the last minute.
“We had big expectations from the get go” this season, Tyson said at a pep rally Tuesday for the team at Thornton High School in Harvey.
“I’m so proud of these guys with their mindset,” Tyson said. “This is just a great feeling.”
The 11-U and 10-teams will leave Thursday and spend nine days in Florida, though they’re still working to come up with the estimated $60,000 the trip will cost.
They held a fundraising banquet and also have a GoFundMe page to raise money, and Tyson said the community has been generous in supporting the Vikings.
“This is a passion project, it’s not just about the wins and the losses,” Tyson said.
Matthew Webb, who plays right tackle for the 11-and-under squad that missed out on the title last year, said they will be ready for this year’s challenge.
“I know our team can do it,” Webb said.
His dad, Timothy, the Vikings’ offensive coordinator, said they hope is to bring in enough contributions so players’ parents can make the trip to watch the games.
“Raising that money will make it a lot easier for everybody,” he said.
Justin Harris, head coach for the Eagles, said his 13-U squad will leave Friday for Florida, and will be down there seven days. They’re estimating the trip will cost about $30,000, and more than $13,000 was donated to the Eagles during a pep rally Tuesday in Robbins.
“The guys are excited, the community is excited,” Harris said. “I know it’s football but it brought the whole community together.”
The Eagles were undefeated in the regular season, then beat teams from Ohio and Missouri this month to advance to the national level.
“We are not just representing Illinois, we are representing the whole Midwest region,” Harris said.
In his 15th year as coach, Harris said the Eagles have not lost a regular season game since 2018, but has stumbled in the past on the path to the national playoffs.
“We always fall short in the regionals,” Harris said. “It’s the first time the team has made it to nationals. It’s a pretty big deal.”
Robbins Mayor Darren Bryant said the village was giving a check for $5,000 to the team, and the Blue Island-Robbins Neighborhood Network also presented a check for $5,000.
Bryant also announced village plans for a park that will include a $2 million artificial turf football field with lights and grandstands that the Eagles may use. He said the village is getting grant funding from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for the park, which will be at 135th Street and Claire Boulevard.
The team now has to host games at high school football fields, including Eisenhower High School in Blue Island and Richards High School in Oak Lawn, Ward said.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever had a home field,” he said.
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