The Dorchester Academy of Public Service- part of what was once known as Dorchester High - has about 45 players on their football team this year. That is a total of 33 more than were on the team three years ago, when Coach Rich Moran left the program he built at Hyde Park to come to his own neighborhood and resurrect high school football.
Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Penn., has an impressive resume of football talent. Boasting six current NFL players, including star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, the third pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, Valley Forge is not in need of any resurrecting.
This season the two will meet in a game on October 20, in Pennsylvania. It will be the first time any Boston public school has traveled out of the state for a football game. That is mostly due to the work of Moran and his newly formed Dorchester Education Complex Football Booster Club. The Bears won't find an easy game awaiting them when they get to Pennsylvania, but the trip is about more than football.
"The whole idea of this trip is to get these kids to really respond to a program, and bring a part of Dorchester with them," Moran says. "The whole idea behind it is to get them to give what it really takes to commit to football or anything in life. A lot of these kids have come to think it's okay for them, in their environment, to walk away and quit or be satisfied with less."
Moran has lived in Dorchester for 26 years, and has grown to love the people and the attitudes of the citizens that live here. He knows that the kids here sometimes get a bad rap and sometimes get ignored. He is trying to do his best to change all of that, and this game will hopefully give him that chance.
"The kids at Dorchester High are worth it, they are good kids, but they aren't known as that. They are known as trouble markers," he says, explaining part of that comes from a stigma the old Dorchester High got. And even with the splitting of the schools in 2003, the feelings still reside. "The mentality is still there, it's like that ghost. It's not going to take two years to get rid of that old feeling of Dorchester High. It's now Dorchester Complex, but Dorchester High isn't gone, the spirit of it."
For a lot of the players it may not just be the first time a team has left the state, but the first time they have personally left the state. Earlier in the season at a game against Hudson Catholic a few players were stunned to see the "magical" ability of the automated flushing toilets in their visitors' locker room. It made Moran realize how much this trip could mean to a lot of his players.
"It just goes to show that these kids aren't off their block," he says. "They need to be shown they are part of a bigger opportunity."
The team, however, is not guaranteed their passage yet. The school and the city budget don't include the cost of taking a football team anywhere overnight. So Moran asked around the neighborhood for help. He wound up only having to go next door, where his neighbor Amanda Neal agreed to head up his idea for a Booster club.
Neal doesn't have any boys on the team, but she agreed to head the fundraising they would need for the trip. They are short $6,000 dollars as of this week, leaving them less than one month to raise the funds before the trip is jeopardized. They started sending out letters and have gotten one response, from the local Ironworkers union, Neal said. They have contacted all the people they know and are looking for any help people can give, and Neal is basically working as a one man team at this point.
"These students in Dorchester haven't been out of their Dorchester community, this would be so beneficial," Neal says of her reasons for becoming the first Dorchester Complex Booster president. "[Children are] the future of Dorchester, and I have a younger child that would like to have these opportunities, and as a community we need to make sure this happens."
People like Neal are the reason Moran says he came back to coach in Dorchester, because they all show a commitment even when they don't have to be personally invested in the issue. They are all proud of their neighborhood. Now he just hopes he can teach his players the same thing.
"A lot of it is having pride and being at Dorchester High school, and really being proud of who they are, and being proud to be a Bear, and proud to wear the red. It builds that family atmosphere."
If you would like to help out with either the Dorchester Complex Booster Club or donate to the trip contact Amanda Neal.