Despite worries that Hurricane Sandy would derail the remainder of the Bi-County Junior Scholastic Football League’s season, the Weehawken Pee-Wee Indians took the field against the Englewood Raiders in a specially-scheduled “Super Bowl” in Fort Lee last Friday night, Nov. 16. And despite losing 26-14, the Indians’ participation in the game was about more than winning.
“Missing so much school, having to move out your house, living two weeks miserably in the dark can really disrupt a child’s routine,” said Linda Barr-O’Flanagan, whose son Connor, 7, plays cornerback for the Indians. “So being able to practice and play in this game is exciting for them... it’s a return to normalcy.”
The Indians finished the season with a 6-1 regular season record, second only to the 7-0 Raiders. Weehawken’s only regular season loss was to Englewood, as well.
“We really had a great season,” said head coach Nadyr Albri. “I’m really proud of the kids. [At their age] it’s about learning, and they worked hard and had the will to learn.”
While the Indians trailed 20-0 at halftime, Albri said he told his team that the most important thing was to play with pride and, with two quarters left to play, to not roll over and accept defeat.
“We didn’t know whether or not we’d get to play, we didn’t even know if there was a field available, but it means an awful lot to them that they got to play.” – Christine Lyons
Second half rebound
Sure enough, Weehawken’s defense seemed noticeably stronger throughout the second half, holding Englewood to only one touchdown, and the offense put 14 points on the board with touchdown runs from Matias Mazzeo and Omar Guia III. Guia’s run, a 70-yarder with 1:30 remaining the game, ensured that Weehawken fans had ample reason to cheer.
“I thought I was gonna get tackled when that little kid got in front of me at the end there,” said Omar, “but I juked him, and that’s that.”
Omar, 7, said that for him, his touchdown was the culmination of a great season and ensured that he would be coming out for the team again next year.
“This was my first year playing, and I’ve always wanted to make it to the NFL, so I’ll be back,” he said.
The remainder of the league’s regular season schedule was cancelled following Sandy, in addition to the Junior and Senior League’s playoff schedule, but league administrators made the decision to hold the Pee-Wees’ championship game. Rather than holding the normal playoff games to determine who would play in the Super Bowl, the league decided to simply choose to two top-seeded teams, Weehawken and Englewood.
“We didn’t know whether or not we’d get to play, we didn’t even know if there was a field available,” said Christine Lyons, whose son Sean Guerriero is Weehawken’s tight end. “But it means an awful lot to them that they got to play.”
Connor agreed. “We had a pretty good run,” he said, “and I’m really glad we still got to play.”
Barr-O’Flanagan said that whether or not they had gotten to play the game, the players and their families still managed to stand together against Sandy’s rage.
“After Sandy, it’s things like this that really bring people together,” she said. “We have a few players whose families live down in The Shades, and the coach emailed people after and made sure that everyone knew that if they needed anything, to contact either him or other families.”
“Weehawken is a close-knit town. All of our kids go to the same schools, they’re all in the same classes,” said Lyons. “This storm wasn’t going to stop us from helping each other out.”
Before the game, the team dedicated their performance, win or lose, to Weehawken residents affected by the hurricane. Likewise, the fans ensured that their support was louder than usual.
“I’m known as sort of the well-known loud cheerleader mom around here, for this game in particular,” said Lyons.
Three other mothers – Maritza Shevlin, Paloma Arias, and Kathryn Serrano – constructed special LED-studded signs for the game.
“We thought they could use a little extra support, since Englewood is the only team we lost to all year,” said Shevlin.
And while Weehawken did lose, they certainly will not forget this roller coaster of a season, said Jamie Mullins, whose son Jayden Garcia, 7, plays safety.
“We had a great season except for any time we had to play Englewood,” she said. “But all in all, we had an incredible season and we overcame a lot of difficulties. The kids deserve to be here.”