Two Lynn teams earn tickets to Pop Warner national championships
For the first time in the city’s rich football history, Lynn is expected to send a team from both of its chapters to the Pop Warner national championships.
The East Lynn Bulldogs A squad (10-0) are scheduled to compete in Division 1, while the West Lynn Rams A squad (9-2) would play in Division 2.
In doing so, Lynn has also established a Pop Warner first, becoming the first New England city to send two teams from the same age group to the nationals, which kick off this weekend in Florida.
That’s the plan, anyway.
For the past 14 years, the Pop Warner Super Bowl has been played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., during the second week of December. East Lynn beat Hyde Park, 14-6, last weekend, completing its undefeated season, while West Lynn beat Mount Hope, R.I., 22-16.
East Lynn won the deciding game without one of its best players, who was over the league weight limit. Coach David Ball called the victory “a real character win.’’ Steve Collins delivered two touchdowns, one on a 66-yard interception return.
East Lynn will play in the more competitive division for larger programs, while West Lynn will play in the bracket for smaller programs.
“I just want the kids to have a good experience,’’ Ball said. “But it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to win a national championship. You don’t get that too many times in any athletic endeavor at any age. . . . Just give it your best and you can always live with the results, win or lose.’’
For West Lynn, head coach Maurice Cordy was also at the helm of the 2009 team that went to the national tournament. He returns seven players from that squad, including Devinya Robinson.
“She’s one of our better players,’’ Cordy said. “She plays defensive end and starting fullback. She has eight rushing touchdowns this year.’’
That’s not a typo. She is 14 years old and has been playing football since she was 7. And if you dismiss her abilities, she will dismiss you.
“They have no choice but to respect her, because she can handle anyone,’’ Cordy said.
The divisional split allows both Lynn programs to send a team from the same age group to compete. It has also created another, possibly more challenging, competition.
Now each team must raise more than $30,000 to finance their trips, which includes travel by bus and accomodations. They are scheduled to leave today.
Each of Lynn’s Pop Warner chapters has sent a team to the national championship in recent years - East Lynn’s C squad in 2008 and West Lynn’s B squad in 2009. But with two teams from the same city vying for the same donation dollars in a difficult economy during the holiday season, the fund-raising equation could not be more difficult.
“That’s what I’ve been spending the last 48 hours doing with parents,’’ Ball said Monday. “Parents are panicking and Pop Warner national doesn’t give us a whole lot of time to get $30,000 to $35,000.”
“We have to raise about $45,000,’’ said Cordy. “It makes it completely harder because we’re both vying for the same businesses to help us out.’’
“Raising the money, I’m not sure anyone understands how difficult it is to raise this amount of money in this short a time. And then if we don’t raise the money, we can’t go. That’s a lot of money to raise in such a short period of time for kids to go and enjoy an experience like that.’’
“For a lot of kids,’’ said Ball, “this may be the only chance they ever get to go to Disney World. So I want them to enjoy that part of it.’’
Cordy has the same goal for his players. His own, though, is a little different. “I know the kids are looking forward to playing, but they want to get to [the Disney parks] and hang out,’’ he said. “Me, I want to try to win it this year.’’
Regardless of how the teams fare in Florida, one thing is certain. “Either way, we don’t lose,’’ Ball said. “We’re the fourth-best team in the United States. So that’s not a bad accomplishment.’’
Donations can be sent to East Lynn Pop Warner, P.O. Box 8167, Lynn, MA 01904, and West Lynn Pop Warner, 190 Chatham St., Lynn, MA 01902.