Youth football players in Lynn, Massachusetts, were bound for a championship match in Florida, but their sudden disqualification left players disheartened.
Jubilation came Saturday as East Lynn's Pop Warner team won the regional championship over Everett. The league's regional president addressed the team after the game, telling players they would be representing eastern Massachusetts in Florida.
The next day, team leaders say the same regional Pop Warner officials told them they couldn't go to nationals due to discrepancies with two physical exams — exams that never came into question during the season or playoffs.
"It's not right," said Etoya Voughn, whose son plays tight end for the team. "But in my eyes, they'll always be state champion. Because I've seen the blood sweat and tears."
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"They've been playing together since they've been 6, and they've gotten very far, and to have it be taken away is not right. It's annoying," said Kim Ray, whose son is a running back on the team.
"We hope that Eastern Mass Pop Warner and the New England Regional Pop Warner League representatives will do the right thing and allow these young players to proceed to play in Florida as they have earned," Mayor Jared Nicholson and Lynn City Council said in a joint statement.
The league's official rules say if a team is found to have an ineligible player, the team can't advance. The team says no issue was cited until after the championship and that proper paperwork has since been provided.
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Duke Wilson is East Lynn's Pop Warner president and has worked with the league over 30 years.
"We're in the business of championing kids. This is about kids. So at the end of the day, we're all volunteers," he said.
NBC10 Boston has reached out to Pop Warner regional officials, but has not heard back.