Though their football team is not yet established, more than 120 supporters of First Presbyterian Christian Academy will travel to St. Petersburg, Fla., on Thursday for the Under Armour All-America High School Football Game.
The game, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Tropicana Field and airs on ESPN, will showcase high school athletes and bring an end to months of anticipation for FPCA and the two other schools vying for $140,000 in gear in the Under Armour Finding Undeniable Challenge.
“We don’t know anything; it’s going to be a complete surprise,” technology teacher Maria Reed said Wednesday. Reed; senior Hunter Gillon, who brought the challenge to the school’s attention in October; and junior Hope Armstrong, who has been instrumental in motivating her classmates; will join representatives from the other two schools on the field when the winner is announced at halftime.
More than 900 teams competed in the contest. The winner with the most talent, passion, grit and determination will be awarded $140,000 worth of Under Armour apparel, accessories and footwear for two years.
FPCA is taking on Mainland Regional High School, a Linwood, N.J., school of 1,600; and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, an Alexandria, Va., school of 1,800. Both schools had the greatest number of online votes, while FPCA was selected as a wild card.
Gillon, Armstrong and Reed are joining representatives from the other schools on an expenses-paid trip to Orlando, where they will take part in press junkets and meet former NFL coaches before attending the game.
“It’s very interesting to see what’s going to happen. And just seeing the faces of the kids — they’re completely overwhelmed and overjoyed, and they deserve it,” Reed said. “The experience is unbelievable. The fact that we made it to the finals, that they chose us as the wild card was absolutely incredible.”
Reed and Principal Shannon Hickey both expressed gratitude for the community support and online votes that helped them place among the finalists.
To secure their finalist spot, the school completed a number of athletics and morale challenges, touted their varsity win and state victory totals, showcased their trophies and created videos to demonstrate their passion and dedication.
They also secured online shout-outs from a number of professional athletes, including Bradwell Institute alumnus Gary Guyton, now a linebacker for the New England Patriots, and Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb, as well as video support from the Deen brothers, Jamie and Bobby Deen.
They also received support from another private school, Florida’s Inverness Christian Academy.
“It’s just amazing that a little school of 300 kids can do great things when they put their minds to it,” Hickey said.
“Regardless of the outcome, we’re very proud of our students and our family and the community to come together,” Hickey said. “They very much got behind us and supported us through the competition, which is awesome to see. … Win or lose, the whole experience brought our school and our families closer together.”
For more information on the announcement and reactions from the school, see Sunday’s edition of the Courier.