More than a year ago, I started a video project to document a story about coaches and players trying to do something rarely done before: merging two municipal football teams from Cleveland neighborhoods that are rivals on and off the field. Faced with a shortage of players, coaches and league coordinators brought the teams together for the 2022 season. 

The new team included players from the Garden Valley Falcons and from the Renegades (whose players come from Outhwaite, Carver Park and other public housing estates in the Central neighborhood). The team practiced twice a week, at both Garden Valley and at Lonnie Burten’s Dwayne Broward Field near East 55th Street. 

The new team was named Ward 5 United, a reference to the political boundary that encompasses both teams.  

YouTube video

Coaches Danny Solomon, Codell Gaines, Desmond Stanley, Dontez Howard and Tevin Davis welcomed me and offered me full access to the season. League officials, including Mike Hardway, Howard Little and Joe Wise Jr., also provided invaluable perspective, as did former Renegades player and now-Ward 5 Council Member Richard Starr. 

I attended 25 practices and seven games (the bulk of the season). Not all went as planned for the team, but the year spent together reflects remarkable commitment by the coaches and the players. 

I hope you will make the time to check it out. 

Managing Editor, News (he/him)
Mark is a veteran journalist with experience in alternative media, print, digital and television news. For 19 years, he was a groundbreaking reporter and metro columnist with The Plain Dealer and Most recently, Mark spent three years as an investigative, enterprise and breaking news reporter at WKYC-TV, where his "Leading the Land" series on Cleveland's 2021 mayoral primary race earned a regional Emmy.