At-risk youths enjoy success on and off the field thanks to six-man football team in Waco
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A local football team, clearly underrated at the beginning of the season, has overcome much more than challenges on the field and is now being celebrated for making it to the six-man state championship game over the weekend in Fort Worth.
The Methodist Children’s Home Football Team, consisting of 20 boys which mostly live at the residential center in Waco, fell just short of the team’s second state title after a hard-fought loss against Wylie Prep Academy. The final score was 72-57.
The team’s players live at the residential center for a number of different reasons. All have overcome hardship.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this season and how it went,” said Methodist Children’s Home Athletic Director and Head Coach Matt Rodgers.
Rodgers said to understand what a feat it is for the team to make it that deep into playoffs, it’s important people understand the players’ backgrounds.
The coach said 90 percent of the children at the Methodist Children’s Home live at the residential facility in Waco and all are categorized as “at-risk youth.”
Some have no guardian. Others have no roof over their heads. Some lack basic necessities and others may have gotten into some trouble.
For all, life hasn’t been easy.
“We have 20 guys who played football on the team, all from different backgrounds, most of which had never played football before. Most of which had never even been part of a team before, and so to take that, our expectations coming into the year were pretty mild,” Rodgers said.
“We were predicted to finish fourth in our district and we lost our first two games by a combined score of 117 to 26,” the coach said.
The boys never gave up, however, and practiced daily from August until their final game. The hard work paid off as the team began to pick up steam winning the next nine games in a row.
They went 8-2 in regular season, clinching the district title.
MCH earned a bye the first round of the playoffs and then won the semifinal game against Dallas Academy in convincing fashion,70-21.
Rodgers admits he’s hard on the kids, expecting them to reach their full potential, and while the team fell just short of the state title, Rodgers said what they achieved should be celebrated by the entire community.
“They don’t know what a team or success looks like” he said. “For football, half of them didn’t know how to put on their pad so they work very hard. It was a lot of just learning what hard work looks like and learning what success looks like.”
Rodgers said the team will enjoy the second-place finish for a while because there is no guarantee about next year’s team - and for good reason.
“Due to the nature of who and what we are, there is a possibility of good turnover year-to-year. A lot of times, the boys can be reunited with their family, which is awesome,” the coach said.
“I’m just very, very proud.”
The Methodist Children’s Home Football Team finished second in 2015 and won a state title in 2017.
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