With less than a minute left in the fourth quarter of the New England regional championship game last weekend, a young Dorchester football team scored the winning touchdown — earning a spot in a national tournament in Orlando, Fla.
But before the Dorchester Eagles Pop Warner Junior Pee Wee team can vie for the national title, it must do one more thing — raise $44,000 by Friday.
To qualify for the tournament that begins on Saturday, the undefeated team of 33 boys between the ages of 8 and 10 had to maintain good academic standing, said Craig Carter, vice president of the Eagles team.
The Eagles played the West Haven Seahawks during the regional title game on Saturday and, with only seconds left, recovered the ball off a fumble and scored the winning touchdown, said 10-year-old Takai Whitmore, one of the team’s captains.
“I was happy when we won,” said 10-year-old Alexis Andrade, another captain. “Then I realized we were going to Florida, and tears started coming down my cheeks.”
The Pop Warner Football Championship tournament will be held from Saturday to Dec. 13. Thousands of spectators will attend, and the games will be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2, according to Carter.
It is the 10th time a team from the Dorchester program has qualified for the national championship, and the organization has had to scramble to raise money to fund each trip, Carter said.
Recently, however, Carter said, the Eagles have not been seeing as many donations from the public.
“When we first started going to Florida, it was a huge thing because no one ever went from Dorchester, and people were more receptive to helping out,” Carter said. “Now it’s old news.”
Last year, another Dorchester team went to Orlando and finished in eighth place among the hundreds of teams, he said. But the team could not raise enough funds before the tournament, and was left with outstanding bills.
As of Tuesday evening, head coach Terry Cousin said the Eagles only had about $6,000 for the trip’s expenses, which include transportation, food, and lodging.
Cousin said the trip is a great opportunity for the children, many of whom come from families who do not have the means to travel outside the state.
Those looking to donate to the trip can send funds to the team’s GoFundMe website.Trisha Thadani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TrishaThadani.