[Photo by Andrea V. Watson]
BRONZEVILLE — Loud cheers, a dancing mascot and an excited drumline helped celebrate the Wendell Phillips Academy’s football team’s second championship win Tuesday at a special rally.
The football team won the IHSA class 5A State Championship when they defeated Dunlap High School, 33-7, on Saturday at Huskie Stadium at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Ill.
Joining in the celebration were Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool and Chief Education Officer (CEdO) Janice K. Jackson.
In 2015, the school, 244 E. Pershing Rd., became Chicago’s first public high school to win a state football championship.
Rahm said they were celebrating more than just good sportsmanship.
“I want rest of the city, the state, the country to hear us loud,” he said. “These are the kids you always say, ‘Not those kids;’ You’re wrong.”
“‘Not those kids, they can’t win two championships in three years.’ You’re wrong. These kids are champions on the field and off. They’re not just role models on the field.”
Some of the senior players shared what role the team has played for them and what this accomplishment meant in a news conference after the rally.
Running back and defensive end Anthony Davis said the other players are family and that he loves and respects them. For him, this season has been a difficult one. First a broken leg, that healed on its own, and then losing one of his best friends to gun violence. The 17-year-old was fatally shot in a parked car last month, he said.
None of those obstacles stopped him, he said.
“It felt weird because he’d be at my games, but it pushed me even harder,” Davis said about not giving up. “I wrote his name on my football cleats.”
“It was tough for me,” he said. “I had a broken leg and thought my season was over with. This taught me that things may happen, but it’s up to you if you want to push. That last game was all about pushing.”