Roosevelt High rugby team: Defying the odds

FRESNO, Calif.

Despite plenty of obstacles, Roosevelt's team had a successful first season, and Thursday morning, the city recognized them declaring it "Roosevelt High School Rugby Team Day".

Members of the Roosevelt High rugby team beamed with pride as the mayor and council members recognized them for succeeding and sticking together to play a game they grew to love.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin said, "You speak volumes for people who have ever faced obstacles. Not only have you guys faced them, you've conquered them. You've done so in the middle of great setbacks."

These young men all come from rough neighborhoods and had never even played rugby before Coach Herb Breen got them hooked. But staying in the game didn't come easy.

Juan Partida spends much of his time as the caregiver to his to his mother, who was suffering from cancer.

Jeremy Gonzales played with bad eyesight because his family couldn't afford to buy him contact lenses.

The team even lost one of its players early in the season. In February, Nicholas Quiroz died in his home after being stabbed by a rival tagging gang.

Breen said, "Here's something you can learn from the boys... don't get overwhelmed... look at the guy next to you because he's in the same boat, work hard, expect positive outcomes and celebrate the victories occasionally you're going to have some."

On top of that, they didn't have a school bus to take them to matches, and didn't get uniforms until the middle of the season.

"We may come from a different place but we're gonna be able to change and grow up no ones gonna stay in the same situation we worked hard here and we're gonna work hard in life too," said Jack Medina. "There's no one on my team I don't think is going to become a greater person than they are."

Through the season, the team grew stronger, and closer. And now, there's a Facebook campaign to have their inspirational story turned into a movie.

The team finished its first season with a record of four and six. After word got out that the team needed help, an outpouring of support came in from the community. Different groups pitched in sporting equipment and other things to keep the team going.

Also, as part of Thursday's presentation, Me-n-Ed's announced it would host a victory party for the entire team at its Granite Park location.

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