The West Baltimore Ducks are headed to the national championship game in Florida.
Youth football coach Curtis Covington hopes the West Baltimore Ducks, a youth football team which recently captured the state and regional football championship, can provide relief for a city going through its share of problems.
The Ducks, who range in age from 9 to 11, are preparing to travel to Kissimmee, Florida on Dec. 5 in hopes of claiming the American Youth Football Title in the cadet division. West Baltimore will perform in a week-long tournament that will ultimately determine the best youth football in the country.
Like any good coach, Covington gave his boys a strong speech before their trip, letting them know that they are representing Baltimore City, and how the outside world will look at them.
“When you get down there, everyone is going to say ‘Ya’ll from Baltimore, thats ‘The Wire,’ and that will mostly come from other teams’ parents and coaches,” Covington told the team.
“We’re going to show them that Baltimore is more than just ‘The Wire.’”
Covington is a long-time successful little league coach. Before coming to the Ducks he won a national title with the Forest Park Black Hawks little league program; now he’s looking to build a winner with the up-and-coming West Baltimore Ducks, but it wasn’t an easy road.
In 2013, the Ducks made it as far as to the area championship but lost to another Baltimore powerhouse program, the Parkside Warriors. The Ducks would go on to defeat Parkside this year to advance to the state championship.
Covington uses a no-huddle style offense that is very similar to what most colleges, high schools and even pro teams are running. West Baltimore’s offense includes hand signals, and signage similar to what the Oregon Ducks used to reach the NCAA National Champion game last year.
The Ducks finished the season without a loss.
This isn’t the first time the West Baltimore program has had one of their teams advance to the National tournament in Florida. The founder of the program, Henry Sherod, said the age 10-12 team made it down to Florida two years ago.
“It’s hard being a kid these days in Baltimore City because it’s so much against them,” Covington said about keeping his kids focused and away from the ills of the turbulent west Baltimore neighborhoods. “We just want them to be leaders. So for us to get out of Baltimore for a few , and compete for a national championship, hopefully it will change their life.”
Eleven-year old quarterback Hakeem Wright is one of the kids who has the potential to be a great prospect. Only in his second year playing quarterback, Hakeem has led the Ducks to an undefeated record while commanding the fast-pace Oregon style offense.
“My five-year plan is to make it to college and finish school, just in case I don’t make it to the , so I can be a lawyer or a doctor,” Wright said.
Besides having a strong arm with some accuracy, Hakeem also has a 3.5 GPA in school.
Sherod lives in Prince George’s County, Md. and works in Washington D.C. but continues to come to his old Baltimore City neighborhoods to teach kids how to play football and how to be great men.
For the Ducks, it’s not just about winning a football game – to them, it’s about helping change the perception while creating great memories for the future of Baltimore City.
So the next time someone says “Baltimore” they don’t want you to think of The Wire, the riots, or the murders; instead, you should think of the West Baltimore Ducks.