When Salesianum’s Liam Mara scored a touchdown with under a minute left to take the lead in a hard fought game, the Ferris School players could have just quit.
Instead, with under 30 seconds left, Ferris’ quarterback eluded two potential sacks, and then launched a pass that turned into a 60-yard gain with six seconds left, giving the Falcons a chance for a stunning win.
His final pass reached the end zone, but instead of a green uniform, it found the white uniform of Salesianum’s Harrison Burns, securing the win for the Sals.
It was the first loss of the season for a Ferris team that had to deal with frustration, hope, and ultimately disappointment, but through it all, the players mostly kept their wits about themselves, and participated in the post-game handshake line after Salesianum’s 13-8 win.
Ferris isn’t your normal high school, it’s a secure-care treatment facility that provides services for up to 72 court-committed males between ages 13-18 as assigned by Family Court.
Youth committed to Ferris are identified as serious and/or chronic repeat offenders with a high risk to re-offend, who pose a risk to themselves to others, and require intensive rehabilitative treatment.
Part of that treatment has been the formation of football (fall), basketball (winter), and lacrosse (spring) programs.
One interested spectator was Delaware Gov. John Carney, who was taking in his second Falcons game of the season, and feels there’s a lot of value for the players.
“To keep them physically active, to build their self-image, to make them feel good about themselves, and quite frankly, to have fun. All and all, it’s great for the kids.”
Walter Armstrong, a Youth Rehabilitation Counselor at the school, serves as Offensive Coordinator, and he took advantage of teachable moments both in how to run a toss sweep, and also how to handle frustration within the game.
“What we try to do here at Ferris School for Boys is plant hope, plant seeds of hope. When they hear about other guys playing, and think ‘when I get back to my neighborhood, I’m going to do the same thing,’ that’s the goal.”
Those seeds have shown results, as both William Penn & McKean feature players who were wearing Ferris jerseys a year ago.
Armstrong added the football program can be vital in the rehabilitation process.
“They get togetherness, they get discipline, they get second chances, they get LOVE. It’s to the point sometimes they re-offend just to come back to receive that same kind of love they don’t receive at home, here at Ferris School for Boys.”
Gov. Carney left at halftime, but not before saying he was impressed with the team’s growth in defensive pressure, and also the overall discipline.
“It really is good for them, it makes them feel they can do positive things, and they work together as a team. I enjoy seeing the enthusiasm on the team, and I think it’s really great for the kids.”
It was an inspired performance by Ferris, who held a Salesianum JV that was scoring 39 points per game to just the two touchdowns, including an early score by Michael McGarry.
A long touchdown pass in the 2nd half tied the game for Ferris, and they took the lead as a team, as they pushed a rugby scrum forward for a two-point conversion, lighting up their teammates on the sidelines.
Ultimately, it would be Ferris’ first taste of defeat in three games, but they will get another opportunity to experience the highs and lows of football when they host Saint Andrew’s varsity team next Friday.