It's game over for the football program at one Fort Worth school. In recent UIL realignment, the Young Men's Leadership Academy, a small "school of choice" with fewer than 200 students, was bumped up to the highly competitive 6A level, meant for schools with thousands of students.
On Thursday, the school decided it wouldn't be safe to compete, leaving students and parents with a difficult dilemma.
After losing every game but one in its first varsity season, the team made it to the playoffs in year two last fall.
"We were ecstatic, rallying around, going to every game, cheering them on, supporting," said YMLA parent Lachelle Veal.
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But just like on the field, things can change quickly. On Thursday, players and parents learned there would be no third season this fall.
"I started to tear up a little bit, because I love this school," said YMLA freshman Emmanuel Veal.
YMLA is a school of choice with no attendance zone. According to UIL rules, those schools have to play at the highest level of competition within their district.
In Fort Worth, that's 6A, where the student body is generally around two to three thousand. YMLA has just 177 students. The principal called that imbalance a safety hazard, and after two appeals were denied, he's canceling the program.
"It's very devastating," Veal said.
Now students have to decide: stay at a school that feels like home, or transfer to follow their dreams.
"I love football," Emmanuel said. "That's my passion, that's my go-to, that's what I want to do when I grow up."
"It's just a lot to think about because YMLA offers a great education," said classmate Kameron Hatcher. "But without football, you'd be losing a lot of people."
There is one more option. Fort Worth ISD says students can still attend YMLA while playing for the football team in their closest zoned school. But YMLA lets out late, and many students live up to a half hour away. Families are hoping for more details on that at a parent meeting set for Friday night.