Aztecs Capture the Hearts of Philly!
Well, the city of Philadelphia has been waiting for its Super Bowl trophy, and on Friday, December 10, 2004, it was delivered to them...although it wasn't the Eagles to do so as some may have expected. In just their first year of championship competition, the North Philadelphia Aztecs defeated the Huntington Beach Chargers (CA) 32-13 to capture the Division II Jr. Pee Wee Tomlin Championship at the Pop Warner Super Bowl.
As the game came to an end, cheers and chants resounded from the Aztecs side of the field, and head coach Kern Robinson commented that he was just happy to "get these kids out of the city and down to Disney World for a week."
While the Aztects dream season came to an unimaginable conclusion, they almost never even had the opportunity to compete for a title.
for eleven years now, the North Philadelphia Pop Warner program has been in existence and partcipating in the Liberty Youth Pop Warner League, but many didn't even know it existed. The team has practiced in the poverty-stricken area of Hunting Park, on a field that is incapable of even growing grass. They have managed to practice basically in the dark, with only lights from parking lots or the street to help them. And when this gritty Philly team defeated the Plainfield Vikings in the Eastern Region Championship game, reality sunk in.
In order for a team to advance on to compete in the Pop Warner Super Bowl at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, FL, it must come up with the resources to make it that far. Just when that dream looked far from reality, the community responded. Southwest Airlines donated round-trip tickets for the team to make the trip down, making it possible for the Aztecs to showcase their talent to the country (Southwest is now the official airline of the North Phila Aztecs). And they didn't let them down!
The Aztecs won their two games at the Pop Warner Super Bowl, defeating the
East Tampa Bandits (FL) in the first round 18-6, then defeating the Chargers in impressive fashion for their title.
Coach Kern Robinson said in an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News earlier, "It was really a great game." And asked what he was going to do now that his team had won the Super Bowl, he said, "I think we're going to spend a week in the Bahamas!"
In another twist of this feel-good story of overcoming odds, the "City of Brotherly Love" could also pass for the "City of Sisterly Love" after what we saw last week. The competitive cheerleading squad from Conestoga (Generals), just north of Philadelphia, managed to click with the football team earlier in the week, and offered to cheer for the team during its two games. Call it a good-luck charm or simply a very nice gesture, but the squad, who is actually in a seperate league from the Aztecs, were there for them all week routing on their new "boys!" Also in another show of sportsmanship, the
Ok, so they win the Super Bowl, have a cheer squad their supporting them...can it get much better? How about a true home-town welcome as they got off the plane back home. That's exactly what they recieved. Hundreds of fans poured in to see their new champs as they got off the plane, along with a man pretty envious while also extremely happy for the youngsters. Eagles quarterback, and Pop Warner alumnus Donovan McNabb was there to greet each member of the team. Wow, welcome home!
And while the Aztecs proved to the world that it doens't matter who you are, where you come from, or what equipment you have, I think their fortunes are about to change.
League co-founder Steve Irving has been swamped with offers of help this week, including a $30,000 Community and Economic Development grant from state Sens. Vince Fumo and Shirley Kitchen earlier this week.
Also, this Sunday as they Philadelphia Eagles take on the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagle's organization will be honoring the Aztecs for their accomplishments this season, and for the inspiration they have served to the entire city.
"The contribution is really nice, and it will go a long way towards purchasing new equipment and uniforms and just basically running the program," said Irving.
This was the Aztecs first season competing in Pop Warner post-season play, and their first appearance in the Pop Warner Super Bowl. As for next year, well, they bring 20 returning players back in hopes of winning back-to-back national titles. Also, the Aztecs Pee Wee team was just one win away from competing for a national title, but they lost the Eastern Region championship game to the Hazlet Hawks (NJ) 30-12.
"No matter what happens to them, they will be pioneers," Quintin Baldwin, a board member, said. "They can say we were the first ones out of Philadelphia to win the national championship. We're just setting this up for the Eagles."
Media Contact: Joel Balthaser, (215) 752-2691; firstname.lastname@example.org