Youth football team takes hit ahead of season opener

- Even during practice on a hot day, it's fair to say the toughest part of getting ready for the season for the Dover Patriots youth football team is happening off the field.

"We were hoping it was full when we opened it," said Coach Crystal Peeples. "But when we saw it wasn't, it really was devastating."

Hot dogs, peanuts, fries, Gatorade, team shirts, the freezer, radios and even an air conditioner, were all hiked out by someone who apparently brought a truck and a trailer sometime Sunday night or Monday morning. 

They estimate $5,000 worth of stuff was sacked.

"Somebody that wants to steal from kids is just, they're low," said Peeples. "What's the point? It's not coming out of our stuff, it is coming out of their parents. That's how we keep this going."

The league of 120 football players and 75 cheerleaders aged 4 to 15 has their first games on Saturday, with no way to make the cost back for insurance, uniforms and referees.

Indeed, league families are stopping by to restock the essentials like dogs and water. Someone even donated a freezer to replace the one stolen.

"It's ridiculous you have people out here taking from our babies. I have two kids of my own, and they would do anything to help these kids," said Nikki Kelly, whose children have been through the program. "This is our family out here."

Turns out, of all the lessons youth sports teach, the one they're learning this season is something they hadn't planned on.

"It helps the kids, keep them off the streets, your older ones, it teaches the little ones fundamentals," said Peeples.

Hillsborough County deputies are investigating the theft.

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