Cardinal Hayes High School football team celebrates historic state championship victory

CeFaan Kim Image
Friday, December 22, 2023
Bronx high school football champs hold well-deserved victory party
CeFaan Kim has more on the party for the high school football champs.

BRONX, New York (WABC) -- A huge victory party was held Thursday night for a Bronx football squad that accomplished what no other city high school team could.

The Cardinal Hayes High School football team became the first inner-city team to ever win the Catholic High School State Championship.

Their decisive and dominant 40-22 win left no doubt that they are the real deal.

"This group of young men were 2-8 last year and you know a lot of kids in today's society jump in the transfer portal, you know they decide they don't want to play, they get discouraged, and this group of young men sat down, got together, started grinding and went through an offseason and got bigger, stronger, faster, went to study hall every single day, came out and went 12-2 and won a state championship," coach C.J. O'Neill said.

Team Captain Rich Belin said that no matter the circumstances, the team continued to push through.

"Whether it was not having a field for home games, traveling a lot, obviously our facility not being what they should be, but with all that adversity you just have to continue to go," he said.

Their path to becoming champs would've seemed insurmountable to most, so on Thursday night, the Bronx borough president hosted a celebration at Borough Hall.

Among the obstacles they overcame was their practice field, which was so deteriorated and dark that it was too dangerous to use. And that was just this year's struggles.

"What a lot of people are missing is that the senior class here, they were in junior year during COVID," said former NFL player Tony Richardson. "So, they missed their season there, playing all their games on the road this year. You are talking about grit and having to overcome things, I think this is a great example of if you continue to keep working hard great things happen."

Then again, if you look at the students on this team, it probably shouldn't have been a surprise what they accomplished.

Andrew Malik McFall is the first student body president of the school on the team. The defensive end is also a member of the Honors Society.

"I put a lot of work into everything I do, and I know my mom is proud of me," McFall said. "That's all I want to do is keep making her proud."

As for Belin, the quarterback and team captain, he's being recruited by Princeton University, and he's still a junior.

"I think they are a living testimony to keeping the faith, setting your goals, working hard towards your goals and not withstanding how it looks at the moment. And believing that you can and that you're able and that you will," Belin's mother Rita Beline said.


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