STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. (PIX11) — It’s been a season of dedication, perseverance, and teamwork, and it’s paid off. The undefeated Staten Island Lions are headed to the Pop Warner National Championships in Florida.
This season was the first time many of the boys played together, but they clicked right away. Andrew Busso is the Lions’ assistant coach.
“Three minutes into the first game, we realized we had something special,” said Busso. “The kids are just amazing. They are hardworking, they’re students of the game, and they get things done. These kids work as a team like I’ve seen no other.”
Nicholas Constantino, the team’s 13-year-old running back, agreed.
“As the season went on. Our chemistry just grew together as a whole,” he said. “We just got better and better.”
Last month, the Lions beat a team from Pennsylvania, winning the Eastern Regional Championship and punching a ticket to the big show. They now have a chance to win it all, to become the national champs.
The team of 13- and 14-year-olds will be in Orlando next week for the Pop Warner Super Bowl. But it is costly to send two dozen players to Florida. They’ve started a GoFundMe to offset the costs of airfare, hotel, and other expenses.
Austin Busso, 14, plays slot receive and free safety.
“Anything can help so we can all make it there,” said Busso. “We can go as a team. We’ve been working as a team. We don’t want to leave anyone out. It’s a team effort.”
Coach Busso said a donation of any amount can go a long way.
“We have kids from all walks of life parents that work their butts off every day, and it’s tough,” said Busso. “We’re asking people to give $1, $5, just to get us to Florida so these kids could achieve a goal of a lifetime. This is something they will remember when they’re 80.”
According to coach Busso, no team from New York City has ever won the Pop Warner National Championships. The young New Yorkers want to take it home for their city.
“We’re all really excited. We worked really hard to get here,” said 13-year-old center Andrew Delessio. “We want to go to win. Our hearts are racing. We want to go out there, play our best and get it done for New York.”
The team travels to Orlando on Friday and is set to play their first game Sunday. If they win that game, they’ll advance to the next round on Wednesday, and if they take that, the championship game is scheduled for Dec. 10.
If you’d like to help the Staten Island Lions, visit the team’s GoFundMe page.