Building character in a West Oak Lane-based semi-pro football team

Strength, honor and integrity, the mantra of the Philadelphia Panthers, is exactly what the team displayed Saturday during their opening game of the 2011 Minor League Football season.

The team traveled to Bayard Rustin High School in West Chester to take on the Central Penn Piranhas. Both teams played 60 minutes of hard-hitting football, which resulted in a 17-12 loss for the Panthers.

Despite the loss, team members predict victories as the season unfolds.

“It’s a good start for us,” said the Panthers’s 24 year-old quarterback, Jeffery Campbell. “This game allowed us to find out where we were as a team. Nothing was perfect today and everybody made mistakes. We just gotta come to practice and capitalize and correct those mistakes.”

The Philadelphia Panthers was founded by head coach Damascene Pierre Paul in 2003 as a nonprofit organization meant to empower and mentor men ages 18-30. The team is based in West Oak Lane and helped give birth to the La Belle Community Football League, a competitive minor football league, started by Pierre Paul in 2002, with 19 teams nation wide.

Using the discipline of sport, Pierre Paul says he hoped to create a program that would allow young men to have an outlet for their aggression and help them improve their character.

“Sports and football seems to bring out the best in people,” said Pierre Paul. “You get the worst characters and you get the best characters. You can weed out the worst characters but sometimes the worst characters still want to play ball, so they force themselves to become better people.”

While the West Oak Lane community has shown great support and appreciation for the Panthers, the city establishment has not, according to Pierre Paul.

The Philadelphia School district charges the Panthers a total of $2,200 per game to rent out the Benjamin Johnston Memorial Stadium in Mt. Airy, the team’s preferred home.

As a result, the team has been forced to switch their home field location to West Chester, where they are charged $700 per game.

“In the city of Philadelphia, two blocks from where our organization is based, we can’t use the Supersite (Ben Johnston Memorial Stadium). That’s disrespectful and it’s unheard of,” said Pierre Paul. “We want to be able bring this program in and encourage the community to come out and see the positive things that go on here.”

Pierre Paul says that he hopes the switch will be temporary and urges the school district to lower the stadium’s rental price for community based, nonprofit organizations.

A spokesperson for the district said that the fee is standard for all groups seeking to use the facility.  

Along with playing regular season games, Panther team members are required to participate in at least five community service events throughout the season. These events have included mentorship programs, holiday give back programs and anti-violence campaigns.

For many players, joining the Philadelphia Panthers has not only improved their game but their lives as well.

Cornerback, Marcel Rivers hoped to play for the Panthers when he was just 17 years old. However, due to age restrictions, he had to wait till he was 18 to try out. Rivers is now in his third season and says he has seen his life change for the better.

“The Panthers made me grow as a man,” he said. “I had no father figure growing up so I had to adapt. When I joined I got attached to people who showed me how to do things right and not so much of being in the streets.”

The Philadelphia Panthers practice every Tuesday and Thursday from 7:00-9:30 p.m. at the Finely Recreation Center. The Panthers are currently recruiting talented young men to help assist them in their goal of winning the 2011 Major League Football Championship.

 

Panthers team roster:

 

#

NAME

16

ALLEN David

13

BACON Titus

34

BRANTLEY Stephen

6

BURNETT Lance

7

CAMPBELL Jeffrey

28

CHEESEBORO Shadeed

14

CAULK Kenneth

11

CLARK Marquis

27

FISHER Anthony

 

GARDINER David

 

HILL Dwayne

42

HEWLETT Richard

31

JONES Perrell

18

LISTER Cornelius

46

LATTIMORE Marcus

10

MILLER Jefferey

21

ODUM Robert

2

PIERRE Dyshee

86

PRINCE Marjaan

1

ROBINSON Khalef

25

SMITH George

 

WASHINGTON Phillip

 

WILLIAMS Frank

56

WOODS Willie

36

YOUNG Lewis

 

TJ Gardiner

97

Tekin Onal

47

Das  Ameet

17

Macel Rivers

5

Mikhail Reed

22

Shawn Mayers

56

Justin Barbish

4

Arthur Lewis

 

Coach Hastings

3

William James

 

Toddaye El Dobbins

 

Nick Brown

85

Moore Kareem

9

Jose

53

Ben

33

Smoot Anthony

15

Manor Marqueez

63

Jenkins John

 

 

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