Grand C.I.T.Y. All-Stars Need Your Help to Get to National Tourney

Members of the Grand C.I.T.Y. All-Stars team at a recent Saturday practice.

The story of the Grand C.I.T.Y. All-Stars football team has all the makings of a classic sports movie.

This talented group of mostly inner-city middle school players came together in October after their respective teams’ rocket football seasons ended. With just two weeks of practicing together as a team, the 12-14-year-olds journeyed to Lansing to play in the 2014 FCS Championship Tournament. Despite it being the team’s inaugural season, they earned three wins at the tournament and were crowned state champions.

“I was pretty hyped,” said running back Lucas Pienton, 14.

That might be where the story ends, except for the pluck and determination that this particular group of middle school boys has shown. The team is working to raise a total of $20,000 by this Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014 to pay for travel, lodging, meals, and new uniforms to allow all the players, coaches, and parents to attend the national championship tournament in Dallas, Texas. As of this writing, they’re about halfway there.

“We’ve done pop can drives, we’ve sold popcorn and cookie dough,” explained head coach Uriel Tyler. “We’ve stood out in the community taking donations with our Grand C.I.T.Y. banner and our signs.”

Head coach Uriel Tyler works with a player on form.
Head coach Uriel Tyler works with a player on form.

Donations are accepted at Grand C.I.T.Y. Sports Inc. website. The non-profit organization focuses on mentoring and influencing at-risk, inner-city youth by emphasizing education through sports.Tyler said bringing kids together from different teams across the city could have led to clashes and resentment, but the guys have proven themselves to be team players, selfless and committed to a common goal.

“We do have an exceptional group of young men and they all bought into the system quickly,” he said.

Pienton said the team really stepped up to win the state title and he’s working extra hard in the weight room with the opportunity to play in Texas. The 8th grader has been spreading information about fundraisers on Facebook and telling everyone he can think of to support the team. He said he and his teammates will play with everything they’ve got if they make the trip.

“It’s been a lot of work, but we’re going to make it worth it,” he said.

For middle linebacker Kalen Brown, 14, playing with kids who would otherwise be competitors during the regular season took a little getting used to.

“It felt kind of weird playing on the same team,” he said.

Still, the team quickly bonded and ego went out the door. That attitude and team spirit has Brown confident in the team’s ability to go all the way at nationals.

“I think we’re going to go down there,” he said.

If you’ve been looking for a worthy holiday cause, donate today and help this group of hard-working Grand Rapids-area youth make it to Dallas for their storybook ending.



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