Playoff game takes place at Chicago Hope Academy after 2 schools forfeited for safety concerns

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A high school football playoff game took place at Chicago Hope Academy on Friday after two schools had forfeited previous games due to safety concerns.

Before the game started, Chicago Hope Academy Principal Alyssa Dons made a statement about the players.

"We're proud of our field, and we're proud of what we are, who we are in the community," said Dons. "We're named Hope for a reason."

The last time Hope Academy played at their home field on the city's West Side was September 29. A game was underway in Altgeld Park when shots rang out.

"That bad incident that we had nothing to do with defined our season. We want to define our season by our play on the field," said Head Football Coach Matt Kelly.

After that, two suburban Catholic schools, Bishop McNamara High School and Wheaton St. Francis forfeited games, citing concerns about violence in the neighborhood where the games are played.

"Providence had the ball they were about to score, then a black car drove past and started shooting and everybody hit the floor," said Chicago Hope Academy Football Player Treville Hilton.

The shooting was 75 yards away from the field. No one playing or spectators were hurt. Hope's President Bob Muzikowski said it was the first time in the school's history a shooting took place during a game. He wanted the forfeiting schools to know it won't happen again.

"We had the police commander call and the mayor's office. The police commander guaranteed their safety," said Chicago Hope Academy President Bob Muzikowski.

But Bishop McNamara didn't want to risk it.

"Student and fan safety is always our number one priority," said Bishop McNamara President/Principal Terry Granger.

Hope Academy is a Christian high school that serves low income students. The football players were hoping their Catholic opponents would overcome their fears and take a stand against violence with them on their home field.

Still, Hope Academy earned their spot in the playoffs at seven and two. Police were on hand, but few seemed worried as football returned to the West Side field. The team beat Orr High School 49-0.

"If this is what the impetus is for starting those conversations of how are we different, but how are we similar, I think it's great," Dons said.
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