One year after Park View was forced to cancel its varsity season after only 18 players showed up for tryouts, the Loudoun County team is back. Park View now has 74 players, and it will field a varsity and freshman team, thanks in part to the efforts of the community and a social media campaign spearheaded by Burton.
“It was not a matter of, ’Oh, kids just don’t like football’ or kids are too attached to their phones,” said Burton, who graduated from Park View in 2000. “This absolutely was financial. It was a financial roadblock that, once we removed it, they all showed up.”
Last year, Burton filed paperwork with other alumni to form a nonprofit called Project Patriot, a group for Park View and other local schools to raise money for extracurricular activities. The intent for the football team was to provide financial support for students who might want to play but were unable to because of high equipment and other costs.
At an unveiling ceremony Thursday, the announcement was made to students and members of the football team that the NFL Players Association and its OneTeam Collective partners donated $10,000 for the team to get new cleats. Former Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis also was at the event.
Park View was one of three local schools to cancel its varsity football team last season, joining Manassas Park and Bladensburg. Park View and Manassas Park have brought back their varsity teams this year. When reached for comment, a Bladensburg official said she “believed they would” field a team.
Park View and Manassas Park will meet in Park View’s home opener Sept. 13. Park View begins its season at Falls Church on Sept. 6.
“At this time last year, my gut was hurting because it was one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever had to make, and to see all of these kids come out … you see these guys fired up. They are excited,” said Park View Coach Josh Wild, who will have at least 20 players on the team who are new to the sport. “We got a long way to go on the football team, but we’re getting stronger every day.”
The return of Park View’s varsity team comes after high school sports participation dropped for the first time in three decades in 2018. High school football participation is down 100,000 players since 2010, according to NFHS data. In the past decade, it’s down 9 percent overall.
“It just shows everybody else that you can do it,” Wild said. “The kids are there. We spent the offseason doing everything we could.”
Park View’s resurgence mimics that of Centennial, the Maryland school that could only field a junior varsity team in 2017 but managed to have a varsity team in 2018. Park View Athletic Director Jason Testerman said he called Centennial’s school office last year to ask questions about how it brought its team back.
“We basically hit the reboot,” Testerman said.
In addition to the gift from the NFLPA, Project Patriot netted more than $15,000 as part of a T-shirt campaign, in addition to individual donations that were used to purchase 300 student backpacks and a new mascot costume.
“I’m about baby steps,” Burton said. “If we are going to do it, we are going to do it right.”
Read more from Post Sports: