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North Philly Blackhawks win national crown

The city banked on a winner.

The city banked on a winner.

Thanks to fund-raising by Mayor Nutter, the North Philly Blackhawks made it to the Pop Warner national football championship in Florida - and on Saturday, they won it all on national TV.

Never relinquishing the lead, the 120-pound Blackhawks bested the Sweetwater Hawks 20-16 in a game televised by ESPN.

The win climaxed a week of competition on the playing fields at Walt Disney World in Florida in Orlando.

"They were overjoyed," Jeff Days, president of the Blackhawks Athletic Club, said of the winning youngsters. "We are national champions."

As Days explained, the victory was particularly sweet for some of the boys on the team, who advanced to the semifinal last year only to be defeated.

Among the teams stars are quarterback Fred Tydings, running backs Qashah Carter, Craig Jones and Tyliek Raynor and linebacker Brain ("Hit Stick") Harvey. All five boys are 12.

Of Harvey, Days said, "When he makes a hit, you know you've been hit."

In all, about 200 players, family and fans flew south for the week, from both the Blackhawks and the 160-pound Frankford Chargers, both members of the Liberty Youth Athletic Association - and rooted in some of Philadelphia's toughest neighborhoods. The Chargers advanced to the semifinals, but lost Wednesday 38-13 to the Detroit Dolphins.

Until Mayor Nutter stepped up, the Blackhawks and the Chargers were worried they might not have enough money to go Orlando. Hearing from news accounts of the teams' hard work, talent and financial woes, the mayor began dialing for dollars.

The Eagles, sports-apparel retailers Mitchell & Ness, clothing retailer Villa, Comcast, CBS, and the law firm Bowman Kavulich ended up donating a total of $26,500 to help pay for the teams' travel and lodging.

After the mayor found the money, Blackhawks head coach Derrick Williams said the kids could focus on their playing and not money.

"They get to be the best team they can be," Williams said.

Turns outs they were the best in the nation.