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City All-Star Football Game will be played despite embezzlement scandal, attorney says

“The game is crucial,” Frankford coach Bill Sytsma said. “It’s the fabric of high school football in Philly over the last 44 years."

West Catholic coach Brian Fluck on the sideline as his team played Archbishop Carroll in September.
West Catholic coach Brian Fluck on the sideline as his team played Archbishop Carroll in September.Read moreLOU RABITO / Staff

Jordan Price felt a familiar pain during a Nov. 2 playoff game against Martin Luther King.

Unfortunately for the Frankford senior running back, a familiar disappointment also followed.

An ankle injury Sept. 21 against Northeast had already cost the 5-foot-9, 217-pounder a few games. The meniscus injury in his left knee ended his season.

His coach, Bill Sytsma, hopes situations out of his player’s control won’t cost Price anything else.

On Friday, the Inquirer reported that West Catholic football coach Brian Fluck was no longer president of the Philadelphia City All-Star Football Game’s four-member executive committee, after questions arose about missing committee funds. Since then, coaches and players around the city have grown concerned about the game’s status. In previous seasons, the 100-player roster was chosen in mid-February.

“The game is crucial,” Sytsma, who just completed his second season as Frankford’s coach, said Wednesday night. “It’s the fabric of high school football in Philly over the last 44 years. Can’t lose it. It’s gotta be played.”

The game, played last year at Northeast High on May 19, “will proceed as scheduled,” said Fortunato N. Perri Jr., a lawyer representing the game’s executive board. Details were not provided.

In a statement Wednesday, Perri wrote that “the Executive Board is committed to continuing the opportunity for future players for decades to come.”

The statement also alleged that Fluck, who has been West Catholic’s coach since 1999 and is a 1988 graduate of the school, embezzled and misappropriated funds while president, a title he held for 10 years. West Catholic has placed him on administrative leave.

Several members of the game’s larger 16-person board (now minus Fluck) have said that at least $50,000 in committee funds are believed to be unaccounted for. Fluck (pronounced “Fluke”) says he “stepped down” from the board. The board says he was “relieved of his duties.”

Fluck has declined further comment multiple times. In a statement, his attorney, Richard F. Klineburger III, wrote that Fluck would “continue to cooperate with West Catholic, the Archdiocese as well as the Philadelphia All Star Game Board to properly clear his good name.”

Athletes and their families have provided paperwork concerning missing or delayed scholarship money awarded by the committee that ranged from $500 to more than $1,000 from 2010 to 2018.

Klineburger said that, to his knowledge, all monies were paid to “every student who properly completed all of the documentation required.”

Perri, the executive board’s lawyer, wrote that all options to recover the “stolen funds,” including the involvement of law enforcement, will be utilized.

For athletes such as Price, however, the city all-star game represents a chance to recover from injury and perhaps a final opportunity to impress college coaches.

His knee and ankle both felt “hot” immediately after the injuries, he said. An MRI confirmed his knee injury in November. Surgery repaired it Dec. 11.

“At the pace I’m going, my physical therapist is pushing me, and I’m trying to get my leg ready for the all-star game," he said. "And yes, I believe I’ll be ready before the game.”

Price, a powerful runner with quick feet, was voted All-Public League as a junior by league coaches. Injuries, he believes, hampered his recruitment as a senior.

“It’s just always been in my heart to play football,” said Price, who attends Sankofa, which doesn’t have a football program.

His mom, Keva Waters, and dad, Greg Price, put him in football when he was 5 years old. He played for the Mount Airy Bantams and Lawncrest before Frankford.

“It would be a dream come true to play in college," he said.

Price is already an academic qualifier by NCAA standards, Sytsma said. He just wants an opportunity to play, and he’s not alone.

“Honestly for some kids, it could be the last football game they ever play,” said Bartram coach and athletic director Jim Chapman.

Chapman, in his sixth year as coach and administrator, guided the Public side last year.

“It was a great experience and brought a lot of the city’s kids together, and some of them forged bonds that they’ll have forever,” he said.

Since news of the turmoil surrounding the game broke, Chapman said his players have asked about the game’s status. Sytsma echoed similar sentiments.

“We need all hands on deck to make sure this works,” Chapman said. “It’s not an easy task. We need support from all the former alumni of the game and for businesses to help out and help do this for our kids, because our kids deserve this.”