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Dorchester brings community together with first-ever home football game

Posted by Justin Rice  September 20, 2013 10:18 PM

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The Dorchester cheerleaders led a large crowd in rooting on the Dorchester football team during their first-ever home football game at Roberts Field on Friday night. Dorchester lost to Latin Academy 24-10. (Josh Reynolds / For the Boston Globe)

After a brawl broke out at a night football game in 1958 at White Stadium, Friday Night Lights were banned from Boston public schools until Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Athletics Director Kenneth Still rekindled them in 2004.

White Stadium was where the Dorchester football team, founded in 1928, played its home games until they lost to Latin Academy 24-10 at Roberts Field on Friday night — the first true home football game in school history.

The ball was kicked off at 6 p.m. at Roberts Field, a city park not only located right in front of the school but also one of the most violent neighborhoods in the city.

“It’s always a positive thing because there’s always a mix up that people think we need to get people off the streets,” said Dorchester senior running back Hakim Harris, who summoned the loudest ovation from the crowd with a 66-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage in the second half.

“But we need to get people back on the streets because if communities come together like this peace will always happen.”

The $2.8 million renovation to Roberts Field was completed over the summer and includes a turf field, new scoreboard and stadium lights.

Three summers ago Dorchester was awarded funding from ESPN that included new uniforms for all its athletics teams, a weight room, a cardio room and a girls’ locker room. But the school’s Co-Athletics Coordinator Jillian Smith said the stadium was the missing link.

“So this has been a long time coming for us,” she said before the game before adding, “and the kids they are the best bunch of kids. We have the best kids here. They are so excited and they have such a sense of pride. And it shows them that people notice what they are doing and we are going to support them on that. This is the best way to say that to kids ‘We know you are working hard on your academics and your athletics to turn yourself into scholar athletes and we’re going to show you that we acknowledge it by providing a turf field.'"

Smith, a guidance counselor who started the girls’ soccer program five years ago, said after the scoreboard was installed they asked the contractor to come back and write “Dorchester Bears” on it.

“That really makes it feel like it’s our field, ours meaning the community and the school and everyone around here,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a huge asset to the community.”

Having the stadium in their backyard also makes it easier for students to get to the games.

“Yeah it really is, [White Stadium] was such a long distance,” junior Edili Rosario said while selling 50/50 raffle tickets before the game.

The Bears mascot roamed the five rows of shiny new bleachers posing for pictures with fans while community members looked on from the decks of their triple-deckers across the street.

Alumni were also out in force, including Michelle Braxton. A member of the Class of 1970, Braxton lives around the corner from the school.

“It shows that people want to have these things and they will get together and enjoy it," she said. "And I think when they get together and enjoy it they realize their kids need and want this and this is what brings community together. I’m proud to live here and I’m proud to see our team come back and I’m proud to see our team have a place to play at night, a night game.“

David Sealy — whose son Leon Sealy scored the first-ever points in the new stadium by sacking the Latin Academy quarterback in the end zone for a safety — was also happy to see the community come together peacefully.

“Last weekend we had like seven people shot,” he said of the neighborhood. “It’s a good thing for the community for everybody to get together and show that it’s not the majority of the community involved in violence. Most of us are hard working people, church going and nice people.”

Despite the loss, nobody was more proud than Dorchester coach Rich Moran.

“It’s so powerful, it’s community, it’s what it’s about,” he said. “That’s all part of turning the whole reputation around, Friday Night football.”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

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Several reporters, editors and correspondents contribute updates, news and features to the BPS Sports Blog:
  • Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
  • Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at butler.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.
Also expect updates from Boston.com High School sports editor Zuri Berry and the Globe staff.