A team of Massachusetts eighth-graders has flattened its East Coast opponents in the preliminary rounds of the Football University National Championship and is one of four squads still standing in the elite, 64-team national tournament.
The team vastly outscored New Hampshire, Connecticut-North, Connecticut-South, and Maryland to earn a semifinal matchup against North Georgia Jan. 4 at the 11,000-seat Heroes Stadium in San Antonio.
But the steep cost of flights and accommodations for all 35 players and the nine coaches of Team Massachusetts, about $40,000, has sent everyone involved with the team into a flurry of fund-raising.
“We have a goal, and that’s to win the national championship, so we’re there one way or the other,” said P.J. Vande Rydt, the team’s director. “But we want to alleviate some of the pressure on parents who have offered to pay for kids who can’t afford the trip.”
Carrie Reid and Kim McNeil, a duo of team moms from Marshfield, have been working with Team Massachusetts players, coaches, and other parents since late December to raise as much of the $40,000 goal as possible before Jan. 4.
“We just kept winning,” said Reid, whose 14-year-old son, Richard, plays linebacker and was invited to try out for the elite squad in June. “We didn’t even know we were going to Texas until after we beat Maryland in Ohio on Dec. 9.”
For the past two weeks, the fund-raising efforts have been frequent and dynamic. Players collected $3,100 outside Gillette Stadium Dec. 16 when the Patriots took on the San Francisco 49ers. A team PayPal account has brought in $7,300. Private corporations have chipped in $4,200. Across the state, outside police stations and liquor stores and supermarkets, team members have been collecting donations at a frenetic pace.
So far they have raised about half their goal and hope to make an even bigger dent in the cost when they again collect donations outside Gillette Stadium Sunday, when the Patriots play the Miami Dolphins.
But accomplishing so much, both as a football team and as a group of coaches and parents in support of their youngsters’ dreams, has brought everyone involved a little closer.
“Though we haven’t known each other long, we really feel like a family,” Reid said.
Andrew Nashawaty believes his team is poised to win it all.
“The journey started five months ago, and to culminate in a championship would be an amazing experience these kids would never forget,” said the coach. “This team was built to win a national championship.”
The team draws players from more than a dozen communities. The roster includes Mike Silva of Kingston, Connor Degenhardt of Westford, Tony Ortega of Mattapan, Austin Burton of Newton, Jack Frisoli of Westwood, Matt Andreas of Danvers, Jack McNeil of Marshfield, Eddrick Meuse of Framingham, Nick Curran of Plymouth, Angel Santiago of Plymouth, Blake Gallagher of Raynham, Jack McGowan of Canton, Peter Scibilia of Norfolk, Dawson Cubit of Weymouth, Richard Reid of Marshfield, Everett Tillett of Wayland, Mike Connolly of Wellesley, C.J. Herson of Plainville, Owen Gideon-Murphy of Cohasset, Jack Dirstine of Acton, Finn Dirstine of Acton, Paxton Smith of Merrimack, N.H., Zachary Trombley of Canton, Daniel Loewen of Wrentham, Charles Joyner-James of Framingham, Ezekiel Ebieshuwa of Lynn, J.C. Ralff of Norfolk, Eli Hopkins of Brookline, Brett Mazur of Wrentham, Jack Czarniak of Halifax, Joshua Davis of Framingham, Daniel Boyle of Bridgewater, Marcus Elysee of Framingham, and Malvin Santana of Wayland.