By Ron Matz

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– They don’t even have a home football field and their school is located in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Baltimore. Yet this year their football team went undefeated en route to two championships.

On East Chase Street, in the shadows of the state penitentiary and vacant row homes is St. Frances Academy.

The football team captured the hearts of Charm City. They went unbeaten, capping a 13-0 season with a 41-3 victory over Bingam, Utah in the Geico Champions Bowl in Phoenix.

“It was an incredible season. We won the MIAA A Conference Championship–number one in the state of Maryland. We also won a bowl game out in Phoenix, so it was a magical year,” said head coach Henry Russell.

Students at the Roman Catholic school strive for excellence in the classroom and in athletics.

“It was a magical year but even better–a lot of kids are going to college on scholarships,” said Russell. “A lot of great things are happening here at St. Frances, the teachers and the administration, everybody is on board to get these kids into a better place so they’ll have a better future.”

The team was recently honored by Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh at City Hall.

“We represent our families and the city of Baltimore and our school so just to bring that back is a great feeling,” said. St. Frances middle linebacker Shane Lee.

There’s no football field at St. Frances, so the team practices at other schools in the city, sometimes even on the concrete on the street in front of the school.

“We used to run outside across the street,” said St. Frances running back Joachim Bangeo. “You have to do what you have
to do to be great and that’s what we did.”

“It’s been fun to coach these kids–their energy level, their excitement and passion and their teamwork has been pretty cool” Russell said.

“We’re just trying to build on who we are through God. Try to be better men more than anything else. Football is temporary but they’re really trying to train us for life,” Lee said.

Twice this season when the weather was bad the Baltimore Ravens allowed the St. Frances team to practice at their Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills.

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