With 1 minute 35 seconds to play in the Boston’s middle school football City Championship game on Thursday night, 39 cheerleaders stampeded down White Stadium’s track as Victor Rivera rushed down the opposite sideline.
Rivera said he saw the cheerleaders running with him as he crossed the goal line to give the Edwards Middle School a 30-28 victory.
“That’s our cheerleaders right there, they represent us real good, they represent,” he said as the cheerleaders, who won the Battle of the Cheerleaders during halftime of the middle school semifinals at Harvard Stadium last Friday night, continued to cheer behind him after the game. “I knew they were running with us. They are always supporting us, they are always supporting us."
Rivera’s TD also handed the Rogers its first loss of the year.
“I was just like, I need to get this for the team, I need to get this for the team," he said after Edwards improved to 7-0 on the year. “They gave me the reverse and I saw the hole there and I saw the glory and I was like, yeah I’m going to go right up the middle and I’m going to score for my team, and that’s what I did.”
Before Edwards won its second straight city title in Thursday’s nightcap, the Mildred Avenue Middle School defeated the Lila G. Fredericks Pilot School, 26-0, in the first middle school Town Championship game.
This year the Play Ball! Foundation, which funds and helps organize the Boston middle school football league, decided to have two flights of playoffs so they could award both a Town and City champion.
“Everybody loves to be a champion, everybody loves to compete and play and be recognized for being a champion and in our opinion these kids are kind of defying odds, enjoying their time out here and if we can make two divisions and two champions out of this, all the better,” Play Ball! board member Ian Franke said during the first game.
“This league is up and coming and there are a lot of teams that are less developed that haven’t had as much time or as long of tenure and when you get teams like that there’s certain disparities and we think that they’ll certainly step in up in the next few years but right now we want everyone to feel like a champion. This allows that opportunity.”
Rivera, who scored two touchdowns for Edwards was awarded the Jim Peete sportsmanship award after the game.
In Thursday’s first game, running back Stephon Anderson won the Peete award for Mildred Avenue (5-2) after he scored two touchdowns.
“I really want to thank my line,” Anderson said.
Mildred quarterback Lusaniro Tavaras scored the first TD of the game on a 10-yard run in the second quarter. In the fourth quarter, Tavaras tossed a 23-yard TD pass to Jordan Pimentel.
“It’s exciting since it’s the first year of the school having the team,” Mildred coach Duane Nelson said. “Very exciting.”
This was the Fredericks’ second season playing football. Last year it didn’t win a single game.
“I’m just completely impressed at how far they came,” first-year Fredericks coach Jason Colburn said. “We started off 0-4 and we rallied our way back to win. This is just a tribute to the players and the coaching staff.
“We didn’t get the championship that they wanted but I’m proud of my team.”
Rogers running back Dakari Cox’s championship dreams also flamed out Thursday night despite his four touchdowns against Edwards. His fourth TD put Rogers (6-1) up, 28-24, with 4:29 left in the game.
“It’s tough because we battled so hard this year," he said. "We just did a whole lot and I don’t like losing.”
Rogers coach Steve Cahill said his squad played Edwards tougher than any other team this season.
“Nobody was within 30 points of them, I don’t think,” he said. “We expected to win but nobody played with them at all this year. We knew we could. We did. Another minute on that clock we have them."
Cahill noted that the difference between the teams ended up being a 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the first play of the game by Edwards quarterback Jeffrey Benzan.
“It was awesome,” Benzan, who finished with three touchdowns total, including a 41-yard scamper in the second quarter, said of his kick return. “There was a lot of tension between the two teams, both of us undefeated; they are one [heck] of a good team.
"All I know is me and my teammates played our hearts out tonight. This was one good game.”