The Mo Better Jaguars, the only Pop Warner program based in Brooklyn, used to play its home games at Betsy Head Park in Brownsville. Hundreds of locals would circle the field to watch games, filling the track and the handball courts. Then, several years ago, Pop Warner officials ruled the Betsy Head Park was unfit for competition. The field was rock-hard, dusty, weedy, and pocked by divots.
In recent years, Mo Better still practiced there, but they played their home games elsewhere. They played them at high schools around Brooklyn, like Poly Prep or Fort Hamilton. Each week was a scramble, as program administrators waited to hear back from high schools about whether or not their field would be available. Some weeks, parents would not know the location for a Saturday game until Thursday.
Those days are over. This season Mo Better will have a home.
Head coach Chris Legree gathered the players and parents after a recent Saturday practice to break the news. The Jaguars, he said, will play at South Shore High School this season.
It is a fitting host. Legree played at South Shore. He was a star athlete, the quarterback who led the football team to the city championship game and the pitcher who did the same with the baseball team. Mo Better’s purple and gold colors were based off of South Shore’s.
“The scoreboard and everything is purple and gold,” Legree told the kids.
Summer is a time of hope in football, and there was much hope among those circled around Legree. The coaches were excited by the talent in the program this year. Many veterans had returned. More importantly, many newcomers had come to a practice and then continued to show up every week. Around 50 kids attended on this Saturday, and the coaches anticipated the numbers would increase as the season approached.
The season before, when none of the program’s three teams made the playoffs, was far from minds at Betsy Head Park on this Saturday. Instead, there was talk of a revival. Legree told the kids that Mo Better would be hosting a football camp on July 12. It was the summer camp of Eugene Monroe, an offensive lineman on the Baltimore Ravens who is from New Jersey. The kids’ eye got big and some kids giggled when Legree mentioned that a few NFL players would be there.
The camp would be the program’s first event at South Shore. Legree expected more than 350 kids at the camp, as young as six and up through high schoolers.
“Get there at 8:30,” Chris said.
After the meeting, the kids ran off across the park. Some lined up at the icee cart parked on the track. Some played touch football on the Betsy Head Field, as they did most Saturdays in the spring and summer. This was still the team’s true home.