NEWARK, NJ — The Brick City Lions of the Newark Pop Warner football league tied its game against an undefeated rival team from Asbury Park on the new football field that is the centerpiece of the Rev. Ronald B. Christian Sports and Recreation Complex inside Weequahic Park on Sunday, Nov. 6.
“We started this program five years ago in 2012; ever since then, we’ve been to Florida, Disney World, three years out of the five,” said Brick City Lions President Nasir Gaines on Sunday, Nov. 6. “Our cheerleaders also placed fifth in the country in 2013. And now we’re here with our Tiny Mites team that just tied with the undefeated Asbury Park Blue Bishops. Our Tiny Mites actually have been undefeated two years in a row.”
The goal, Gaines said, aside from racking up victories, is “building and saving the kids and keeping trying to keep them off the streets and being productive.” Despite the team’s moniker and the fact that current Detroit Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead hails from Newark, he said that’s not the reason why the team adopted the Lions name.
“His brother, they’re family to the organization, but we’re the Brick City Lions because we feel like we’re in the jungle and we’re the kings of the jungle. We’re the lions and we’ll be the lions over the sheep any day,” said Gaines. “I’ll take a tie any day. It’s not about wins and losses; it’s more about the passion and the energy that they have for the game. At the end of the day, they’re all champions.”
The game on Sunday was a continuation of the new tradition of Newark-based teams, including the South Side Bulldogs and the Brick City Lions, putting the new field and facilities named in honor of Rev. Ron Christian, the former pastor of Christian Love Baptist Church in Irvington, to good use. Christian was record-setting runner for the Weequahic High School track team.
Anyone who knew Christian said he would be proud to know he is still able to have a positive impact on his community’s families, the same way he did before his death in 2015.
“It’s a great tribute to my cousin,” said Derrick Edmundson on Wednesday, July 20, during the dedication ceremony for the new sports and recreation facility. “This could possibly keep generations safe, active and happy for years to come. It could possibly produce the next Newark sports icon and Rev. Ron, he would have appreciated this.”
Prince Stewart, the coach and trainer for the Brick City Lions, and Tiny Mites head coach, said he works with children from Newark to teach them how to rise above and transcend whatever negative circumstances they might have to deal with on a daily basis.
“The summer’s been real big, with training the Brick City Lions and doing the camp, but it all added up to this. Asbury Park, they weren’t on our schedule officially, but we got together and they said: ‘Hey, we’re undefeated’ and we were like, ‘We are, too, so let’s get together and have a good game,’ ” said Stewart on Sunday, Nov. 6.
“It’s good for the city, because these kids see everything before they even reach high school and, me being inside the high school as a coordinator for in-school suspension, I see a lot and it’s a great way to give back. I coach the youngest team in the park with equipment— the 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds — and it’s a lot of teaching involved. We want to win but, at the end of the day, it’s about teaching.”