MIAMI — What if Ice Cube’s movie The Longshots actually happened in your hometown? Well, here it has. On Friday, Nov. 23, the 105-lb TACOLCY Raiders Pop Warner football team traveled from Liberty City to St. Cloud, Fla., and defeated the Creekside Outlaws 8-0.
Now the undefeated Raiders are hoping to head to Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando to vie for the national championship. But first they must raise the funds needed to pay for the trip.
The post-Thanksgiving win marked the first time since the Belafonte-TACOL-CY Center’s sports program began more than 30 years ago that its team has made it to the national championship game.
But, with annual cuts to funding and rising expenses, the center does not have the money to cover expenses to get to Orlando. The team comprises 27 boys aged 10-11, who have been dedicated and hardworking throughout the season.
“It’s been a long wait and a lot of effort put into TACOLCY bringing its football program up to this level,” said team head coach Stephon McGill. “This will be a great experience for our players to make history and be the agency’s first team to win a national title.”
Cedric Hooper, TACOL-CY’s athletics director, echoes McGill’s sentiments. He credits faith in God and hard work for the team’s success.
“We won because of God’s hand. I’m happy for my players and my coaches because I know this is the result of obedience and hard work paying off,” Hooper said. “The kids have worked so very hard and it would be a shame if we can’t make it to nationals due to short funding.”
TACOLCY sports officials say the team needs $19,000 to defray expenses for the trip to the championship game. As of Tuesday, it had collected only $2,700 in donations and pledges. The center has applied for a travel grant and is asking for contributions. The center says it will accept donations through Wednesday, Dec. 5.
Checks or money orders may be taken or mailed to the Belafonte-TACOLCY Center, 6161 NW Ninth Ave., Miami, FL 33127. Donations may also be made online at tacolcy.org and clicking the “Donate Now’ button.