The Lehman High School Lions football team did something in December for the first time in four decades – and there’s a chance they won’t be able to celebrate it the usual fashion.
The Lions won the Public School Athletic League Bowl Championship on Saturday, December 3 but did not receive championship rings, trophies or a victory luncheon due to a lack of funds at Lehman High School.
On Friday, January 20, Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj and Councilman Andy King met with the team at a fundraiser in the school’s gym to celebrate their feat.
“Congratulations to Lehman High School on winning their first championship in 46 years,” Gjonaj, who contributed $500 to help the team buy championship rings and trophies, said to the team. “Not only have you made your school proud, but you’ve made the Bronx proud.”
“As a former youth athlete who played basketball, I remember the great feelings I would have when the team won championship games,” said King who played varsity basketball at Evander High School. “When the team was celebrated at a luncheon and everyone received trophies it was one of the greatest feelings in the world.
King, who plans to give approximately $3,000 to help the boys celebrate in style, hopes to have the party in the near future.
The Lions are currently attempting to raise $30,000 for the rings and trophies through a GoFundMe page. As of this article they had raised $3,120.
The championship was Lehman’s first division title in 46 years.
The Lions road to the top included victories over rivals such as the Truman Mustangs and the Mckee Vo-Tech/Staten Island Tech Seagulls.
Lehman’s only loss in the regular season came at the hands of the Seagulls who they later beat in the semifinals 34-28 on their way to the bowl’s final game.
A 30-0 shutout of the Mustangs in the last round clinched the championship.
“It feels amazing,” said head coach Chris DiTullio of being the last team standing. “We’re the only one of about 20 teams in the division that go to do this and I’m very proud of them.”
DiTullio said many of the juniors and seniors recalled the 2015 season in which the team lost in the quarterfinals.
Therefore the Lions came ready to play this season.
“In the offseason from about February to August they had really, really good work ethic,” DiTullio said.
He praised the team for paying attention to detail in their workouts, working hard at their craft and especially making sure they kept their grades up.
Coming into the season the team also addressed their weaknesses.
DiTullio said the Lions made sure to work on their strength, speed and conditioning.
Since many of the kids were sophomores and junior’s the year before, they needed to get bigger for the 2016 season.
In addition, DiTullio said some of the losses the team suffered within the previous two seasons came after the team relinquished fourth quarter leads because the team was young and tired.
Training camp for the 2017 season begins in two weeks for the Lions and DiTullio hopes to witness another championship.
“We can’t be satisfied,” he said. “The players, the coaches, we have to build and continue to get better.”
If you are interested in donating to the Lions GoFundMe page visit https://www.gofun