JERSEY CITY, N.J. — In sports, there’s nothing like home field advantage.
One New Jersey youth football team is looking for a new place to play after they were kicked off their field. They have to before they’re forced to sack the season.
For years, Jermaine Woodward ran the Hudson County Gators, a Jersey City football program. His son, Jermaine Jr., loved the game. Teammates were like family.
In 2015, Jermaine Jr. died after he was hit by a car while riding his bike in Jersey City. He was just 8-years-old. Following the accident, Woodward gave up running the organization until returning this year.
“The coaches, the kids that’s around, they all cheered me up and said let’s start this football program,” Woodard told PIX11. “We’re going to start it in honor of your son.”
They renamed the team the Saints, in honor of Jermaine Jr. They rebuilt the program by hosting fundraisers, recruiting kids and practicing at Lincoln Park in Jersey City.
The organization joined the Pop Warner Little Scholars League, where the kids can earn scholarships. The New York Jets donated $50,000 to get them up and running.
“These kids right here, they’re from the streets, they’re from the hood and they’re trying to make their way out and playing football is their way out,” Woodard said.
But after months of practicing at Lincoln Park, just before their season was set to start, the Saints were locked out by parks department officials. They were told they could no longer use what had become their home field.
The Saints say they filed all the necessary paperwork and have confirmation they could use the field. Meanwhile, it looks like no one’s even using the field since they’ve been kicked off.
“To know that people could have the heart to take this away from us and they could sleep at night perfectly fine, it hurts me,” said 13-year-old Jerzey Ryan.
So parents, players, and coaches took their fight to the Hudson County Freeholders. The Freeholders directed the Hudson County Parks Department to find a field for the teams.
But if they don’t get one soon, they could be forced to forfeit the season.
“If we need to practice on a dirt patch, we’re going to practice on a dirt patch,” said coach Rob Ryan. “If we need to play every single game away, we’re going to do that.”