CHESTER They weren't deterred when the resources were scarce, or when the city's reputation for violence cast a shadow over their league. Nor were they deterred when one of their mentors and coaches died this season after collapsing on the field minutes before the start of a game.

And while all cards seem stacked against them again, the Chester Panthers once more say they can't be deterred.

For the first time, Chester's youth football team for ages 8 and under has qualified for a spot in the United Youth Football and Cheer League's national championship tournament, in Plant City, Fla., from Saturday to Dec. 11.

There's just one hitch: The undefeated team doesn't have the funds to get there.

The recreation team projects it will need $11,000 to transport, lodge, and feed the 21 players for the weeklong tournament. In economically deprived Chester, where one-third of residents live below the poverty line, "I couldn't put that on the parents before the holiday," said head coach Charles Thompson.

He said the local league had been important in teaching the kids about teamwork, hard work, and, most important, he said, keeping them off the streets. Their accomplishments are to be celebrated Wednesday at a 6 p.m. pep rally at City Hall. Thompson has also launched a GoFundMe page to collect donations for the trip. To view, go to

- Caitlin McCabe