Volume 22, Number 31 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 11 - 17, 2009
Downtown Giant running back and captain Aaron Alers, running back, goes upfield in a win against the Houston 49ers over the weekend.
Giants win national championship, but are denied trophy
The Downtown Giants won both their games at the national championships this week in Orlando, but a paperwork problem prevented them from taking home a first-place trophy.
“In our eyes, we are champions,” said Carl Frye, the Giants’ executive director. “They fought through adversity, and despite everything they had to deal with, they played like champions.”
Shortly after the Giants arrived in Orlando last weekend for the American Youth Football League championships, Frye was told by the league that the team was disqualified because the official roster did not match the team’s list of players. Frye blamed the snafu on the league’s regional office, which submitted the paperwork and said as recently as several weeks ago that everything was fine.
At first, Frye did not want to break the news to the boys, ages 13 to 15, who raised about $10,000 for the trip. The Giants played their first championship game Monday and beat Houston’s 49ers 28-14. The Giants were allowed to play because one of the four teams in their bracket dropped out, and the league needed three teams to keep a round robin championship going.
But word soon got out that something was amiss, so Frye gathered his team and told them. Some of the boys had been hoping to go to nationals for four years, since the Giants were founded, and they began to cry as they heard the news.
“They’re pretty upset over it,” said Linda Ortega, mother of Giants running back Lucas Ortega. “They’re angry about it, but they rallied.”
On Wednesday, the Giants played their second and final game in the championship, beating Rhode Island’s Central Falls Panthers 20-13 in an overtime nail-biter. The Panthers did not know that the game wasn’t going to count, and both teams played their hardest, Frye said.
Giants running back and free safety Justin Colon scored the game-winning touchdown, and Ortega intercepted a Panthers pass to seal the game.
The Giants poured out onto the field to celebrate the victory, and then splashed into their hotel’s pool with their equipment still on. Even if the championship win does not count officially, and the Giants are taking home a third-place trophy when they beat the first and second-place teams, Frye said the players are proud of their accomplishments.
The Giants were founded four years ago by Brian Griffin because Battery Park City kids wanted to play football and they had to travel to other boroughs to do so. The Giants’ home playing field is in East River Park, but they also use the B.P.C. ballfields and Pier 40.
“In the first year, we didn’t have any success and didn’t win any games, so they’ve come a significant distance from not winning a football game,” Griffin said.
Griffin described Giants as dedicated players who fundraised to ensure that all their teammates could go on the Orlando trip, even though many could not afford the $800 cost. Most of the money came from private donations from the community.
“Let me put it this way,” Griffin said. “Kids don’t play football because their parents want them to play — they do because they want to.”
The Giants had a 7-2 record in the regular season this year, but they lost to the Staten Island Hurricanes in the regional championship. With their strong record, though, the Giants secured the wild-card seat in the national championship, which is how they landed in Orlando.
Frye, who has coached the team in the past and did some coaching in Orlando, said the team runs a double-wing offense which is focused more on running than passing — although Frye said Colon made a difficult one-handed catch in the final championship game.
Ultimately, Frye said the Giants are trying to focus on the games they won, not the paperwork problems.
“The boys know that their hard work paid off,” Frye said. “Our heads are high.”
The Giants are running a flag football season starting Jan. 3. More information is available at downtowngiants.com.
— Julie Shapiro
with Helaina N. Hovitz