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Mattapan Patriots 14U team heading to the national championships

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Mattapan Patriots 14U team heading to the national championships

Youth football program boasts high rankings, remarkable season

Allison Schneider
Mattapan Patriots 14U team heading to the national championships
Players of the 14U Mattapan Patriots team line up for a photo after their Thursday night practice. PHOTO: ALLISON SCHNEIDER

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The coaches had glum looks on their faces as they approached players of the Mattapan Patriots 14U football team earlier this fall.

But as they got closer, their faces turned to smiles as they delivered good news: The 14U team had been invited to play at the American Youth Football National Championships in Naples, Florida in December.

The 14-year-old players erupted in cheers.

“The kids were excited, ‘clapped up’ and hugged each other,” said Mick Brunache, president of the Mattapan Patriots and coach of the 14U team. “They are ready to roll.”

“Watching my dad lead his team to Florida is cool. … I don’t have heroes. I have my dad,” said Brunache’s son, Amari Brunache, who is a quarterback and tight end for the Patriots’ 12U team.

It’s been a terrific season for the Mattapan Patriots. Three of the Patriots teams —14U, 10U, and 8U — won state championships, their rankings soared and players were in contention for a chance to compete at nationals in Naples.

“This team — this program — hasn’t had this much success in a long time,” Brunache said.

The Mattapan Patriots, which emphasizes football and cheerleading, has been operating for more than 30 years, with a mission to form a community among young athletes from Mattapan, Hyde Park, Dorchester and other areas.

It is a brotherhood, of sorts, although one player on the 14U team is a girl.

The teams have had their ups and downs. Since Brunache took charge four years ago, the teams have seen a remarkable turnaround. For instance, the 10U team’s record improved from 1-7 to 7-3 in 2021, he said. He replicated this achievement with the 12U team made up of 12-year-olds.

Brunache said the organization has also increased marketing, purchased better equipment, raised funds and amplified getting the athletes prepared for the next chapter of their lives — high school.

This year marks the 14U team’s final season playing under the Mattapan Patriots banner before heading off to high school. The players are ranked No. 3 in New England, according to Top Ten New England’s rankings, whose mission is to showcase youth athletes.

The 14U players also made Mattapan and program history as the first team to receive an invitation to nationals, Brunache said. They are raising money through GoFundMe to make it there. 

“This is my last year in youth football, and there couldn’t have been a better way to end it,” said Lamarri Sanchez-Coleman, who is a running back and middle linebacker for 14U.

At Almont Park in Mattapan on Nov. 9, Sanchez-Coleman and the other 14U players practiced opposite the 8U team, whose players, all 8-year-olds, seemed inspired as they observed the older athletes.

The younger teams look up to the older ones, and the older teams draw inspiration from star program alumni like Datrell Jones, a Division I football player at Boston College. Brunache said he plans to take members of the team to BC to watch Jones play so that “they know that one day that could be [them] as well.”

Ernest Hughes, a former college athlete, said his son, EJ, who is an offensive and defensive line player on 14U, is already planning his future after being on the team.

“[EJ ‘s] plan is to play high school and he wants to go on to college to play with it,” Hughes said. “I told him to take it one step at a time, and see what happens.”

Unfortunately, the 10U and 8U teams lost at the New England regionals last weekend and will not be moving forward on to Florida, said Brunache.

The 14U team will be the only Patriots team heading to Florida for nationals, Brunache added.

Brunache said he’s pleased with these results.

“We exceeded expectations by making it to the playoffs … by winning our conference … by becoming state champs. Three out of four levels are state champions. We are more than happy,” Brunache said.

The players are also thrilled.

“I still can’t believe we’re going to Florida,’’ said Anthony Olson, another 14U quarterback. “Coach Mick said from the beginning, ‘Do I believe?’ Yes I do coach! We’re going to nationals!”   

Looking back at the season, Brunache reflected on a pivotal game against Attleboro recently. Despite the 14U team being down 20-6 in the second quarter, they made a remarkable comeback, changing the narrative and winning 38-32, Brunache said.

The team isn’t just about winning, but about the brotherhood and sisterhood it has fostered. Hughes said EJ joined the team during the COVID year and made friends right away. After playing for the team for a while, Hughes gave EJ the option to go back to his previous team. EJ refused, his father said.

What’s next for the 14U team?

The players will be applying to high school and looking ahead to preparing for their SATs. For now, though, they have their sights set on nationals in Florida.

“The goal for nationals is … to put Mattapan on the map,” Brunache said. “I can’t foresee the future, but I think we’ll go down there and represent not just Mattapan, but the whole New England and the whole Boston.” 

The team’s bond extends beyond removing the Mattapan Patriots jersey, Brunache emphasized — it lasts forever.

American Youth Football National Championships, Mattapan Patriots, Sports, youth football

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