Of the 305 public high schools in New York City, only 43 have football teams-and none of them are in Harlem. That is until Doug Ferguson, a former wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, organized the Harlem Hellfighters in 2003. But bas- ketball is king in Harlem, and the Hellfighters are a long way from Friday Night Lights. Filmmaker Jon Frankel follows the team through their third season as they look for park space to practice, forfeit games due to inadequate paperwork, and cope as players with poor academic records are cut. Audited by the Public School Athletic League, hounded by the Board of Education, and in danger of losing their NFL funding, the Harlem Hellfighters are under stress and Coach Ferguson under scrutiny. "They want you to quit," the hardheaded and enigmatic coach tells his team. Still, playing with the Hellfighters is the opportunity of a lifetime for Tahriek Crenshaw, a quarterback who knows that football is the only way he can pay for college; David Bliss, a defensive back with grades so good he is being courted by Harvard; and Christopher Ruffin, a phenom whose mother taught him the game and has already been noticed by Division I schools in his junior year. The bleachers may be empty, and there may be no cheerleaders or marching band, but for many of these players, the Harlem Hellfighters is the start of achieving their dreams, one touchdown at a time.
Raised in New York City, 43-year-old filmmaker JON FRANKEL is a graduate of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Communications. Frankel began his career in media as a radio producer for Bob Costas, later spending a season as a producer for NFL Films. Changing gears, Frankel then moved in front of the camera as a local sportscaster in West Palm Beach and Miami. Eventually, he moved back to New York City to work for WNBC. At present, he is a correspondent for Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on HBO and CNBC's On the Money. Frankel now gets his kicks from cross training, and even participated in the 2002 Ironman Championship in Hawaii. He is also an avid skier. Jon Frankel currently lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children.