By James Hohmann
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 14, 2009
The ceremony started an hour late as the crowd waited patiently for the students' flight to arrive.
But the audience on Sunday roared when the 22 Watkins Hornets players rushed into a Southeast Washington pep rally to celebrate winning the Pee Wee Division 1 National Football Championship.
The Hornets beat the Florida City Razorbacks 22-8 at Disney's Wide World of Sports near Orlando on Saturday in the Division 1 Pop Warner National Championship game.
About 200 parents, friends and other boosters packed the gymnasium at the Watkins Recreation Center, next to where the young athletes have practiced for months, to welcome the players home from a week in Florida.
They cheered as the children ran out of a small, tunnel-like vestibule that had been inflated for the event. There were dozens of balloons in the team's colors of orange and black, and well-wishers shook orange pompoms.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said he watched the game on ESPN360. He was so impressed that he told the children that the District will give them Super Bowl champion jackets at a future council meeting and also said he will present the head coach, Delante Williams, with a key to the city.
Each player received a bag of candy and a gray championship T-shirt. The winning feast included 24 pizzas and several sheet cakes.
The Hornets are the first team sanctioned by the District's Department of Parks and Recreation to win a Pop Warner national championship. The team finished the season undefeated after 15 games.
Many players had never traveled outside of the area. During the season, they took bus trips to play in Delaware and New Jersey and flew to Florida.
Parents said the children grew as a result.
"They went to study hall like they were supposed to, they went to bed like they were supposed to, and then they made it all work," said Shauna Cooper, 33, whose son, Rashad, 12, is the team's quarterback.
Malik Bullock, 13, of Southeast played wide receiver and dreams of playing professionally.
"I've been playing football," he said, "and trying to stay on the right path."