WASHINGTON — The number one ranked middle school football team in the country hails from Johnson Middle School in Southeast, D.C., and thanks to community generosity, they are heading to the next big game in West Virginia.
Thursday, WUSA9 visited the team during the Moving Mountains program at CheckIt Enterprises in Anacostia. There was a spinning lesson with DJ Quick Silva and words of encouragement from Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White.
“You know we love you we want the best for you, but we have to want the best for each other," Councilmember White told the team.
The community is coming together to support some of their own: student athletes from Southeast who are excelling on and off the field.
Students must maintain a 3.0 grade point average to play football. But Coach Micheal Sharrieff said most players have a 4.0. And if they say excellence is transferable, it certainly shows on the football field where the team has consistently dominated, winning 158 games, and only losing 24 in the 22 years Coach Mike has been at the helm. The 8-time national champs haven't lost a regular season game since 2016.
"I think the secret sauce you're talking about is plain old work ethic. We believe in outworking everybody we don't take any time off we're relentless in our pursuit of chasing greatness," said Sharrieff.
The teammates made T-shirts - their own designs - to help raise money for the next big game: September 9th in West Virginia. A non-league game, but a big one for this team. By Monday, the team had reached its fundraising goal.
"It’s important,” said player Christopha Alston, “we got to still keep our number one ranking and win or course and put on a show.”
“As the only girl who plays football on a good team you're going to hear sneaky stuff people say but you know they're just haters,” laughs Keilynn Wray, “you hear people cheering you and some people being haters, as always, and it's like ignore that because they're just mad they're not me!”
It’s that confidence and mental toughness that's helped these young people stay focused and away the violence.
“We need to get more kids in more communities to get together because right now we're killing each other and we need to be all together,” said player Tayron Burwell.
“Teachers and coaches are part of the dream process so when kids have dreams, we are responsible in helping them achieve those dreams,” said Sharreiff, “my dream is to help change the narrative in this city about our young people."
Coach Mike said he has more players than ever who want to join the team - and he never turns anyone away. So that means more helmets and more uniforms.
If you'd like to support the Johnson Middle School Panthers and help the team get to the big game in West Virginia, you can help them raise money on their GoFundMe or send a check to Johnson Middle School, payable to the Johnson Football Booster c/o Coach Mike.