Bronx high school football team looks to turn adversity into triumph in state championship game

Jim Dolan Image
Friday, December 1, 2023
Bronx high school team gears up for high-stakes championship game
Jim Dolan has more on the Cardinal Hayes High School football team.

THE BRONX, New York (WABC) -- It gets early this time of year and the field at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx isn't like the ones at rich suburban high schools.

When the sun goes down, they play in the dark until the team moves on.

After sundown, the whole team goes on a 10-minute walk, past the cars, along the Metro North Rail Road tracks to a borrowed field that does have lights, which come on just in time.

This is all in preparation for one more game - the state championship.

Cardinal Hayes High School is playing for the NYSCHSAA State Championship this Saturday.

If they win, they'll be the first inner city team to ever win the state championship in football.

While the challenge will be tough, Cardinal Hayes happens to specialize in tough.

"The vast majority of our kids are from single parent homes," says Coach C.J. O'Neill. "We're just looking to break the poverty cycle and help kids get opportunities, get to college, and advance their families."

With all of those challenges, you would think that everything would have to go perfectly through the year in order for a team like Cardinal Hayes to get to this finals. But It didn't.

There was a fire in the coach's office midseason that destroyed a bunch of expensive equipment.

The field they usually practice on had become so deteriorated that it was too dangerous to use they had to find another practice facility.

Adversity? Absolutely.

"We've had some obstacles, and we've talked about resilience in our program," said Coach O'Neill. "You have to be resilient, you have to develop a resiliency and you have to figure out ways over, under, around - whatever you need to do to get around those obstacles."

"You can't take what other people have and make excuses for yourself," said team captain Roy Boyd Jr. "I think you just gotta put your head down and work and that's what we've been doing, and that's what we're going to continue to do."

The Cardinals have one more game. It's a big one.

However, what they are about here in practice are all the days after the game.


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