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.
Never relinquishing the lead, the 120-pound Blackhawks bested the Sweetwater Hawks of Jacksonville, Fla., 20-16.
The win climaxed a week of competition on the playing fields at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
"They were overjoyed," said Jeff Days, president of the Blackhawks Athletic Club. "We are national champions."
As Days explained, the victory was particularly sweet for some of the boys on the Pee Wee-level team, who advanced to the semifinals last year but lost.
Among the team's stars are quarterback Fred Tydings; running backs Qashah Carter, Craig Jones, and Tyliek Raynor; and linebacker Brian ("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, relatives, and fans flew south for the week for 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 Midget semifinals but lost Wednesday, 32-13, to the Detroit Dolphins.
Until Nutter stepped up, the Blackhawks and the Chargers were worried they might not have enough money to go to Orlando. Hearing news accounts of the teams' hard work, talent, and financial woes, the mayor began dialing for dollars.
The Eagles, sports-apparel retailer Mitchell & Ness, clothing retailer Villa, Comcast, CBS, and the law firm Bowman Kavulich donated a total of $26,500 to help pay for travel and lodging.
After Nutter found the money, Blackhawks head coach Derrick Williams said, the children could focus on their playing.
"They get to be the best team they can be," he said.
Turns out they are the best in the nation.