People who have followed the rise of the St. Frances Academy football program, from a moribund outfit in the MIAA C Conference to one of the country’s best programs that plays a national schedule, have long been aware of the challenges the small, cash-strapped East Baltimore Catholic school has faced.

St. Frances doesn’t enjoy the luxuries that a school like the St. Paul’s School for Boys in Brooklandville does with its $78 million endowment. It has to chase every penny every year to maintain the school’s operating costs and provide the necessary financial aid to its students, of whom 98 percent receive assistance.

You won’t find another nationally ranked prep football power that doesn’t have its own field, blocking sleds, tackling dummies or state-of-the-art facilities. Forced to practice at Patterson Park or at local rec centers throughout the city, the Panthers are more like a determined group of nomads as they crisscross the nation taking on the toughest opponents they can find.

Head coach Messay Hailemariam speaks to the team, all of whom are kneeling, before practice begins.
St. Frances head coach Messay Hailemariam speaks to the team before practice last month. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

But, thanks to Under Armour’s generosity, St. Frances won’t have to go on the road as often as it has over the last few years.

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All of its home games for the rest of this season, and in the foreseeable future, will be played at the sparkling new state-of-the-art The Stadium at The House facility on the Baltimore Peninsula campus that will soon serve as the company’s corporate headquarters in Port Covington.

St. Frances will play there Saturday at 7 p.m. when it hosts the St. Thomas More School from Oakdale, Connecticut, one of New England’s most prominent programs.

“We appreciate Under Armour for allowing us to use their beautiful new facility, The Stadium at The House, to host our home games,” St. Frances athletic director Nick Myles said. “It allows us to have some stability where we’re not always stressing and racing to find a place to play our games here in Baltimore.

“They don’t charge us a fee to use the facility, which helps us manage our costs. And our students, parents and fans of the local high school football scene can come out and regularly support us. We’re thankful to have this new, exciting opportunity and building on what’s already a strong partnership with them.”

The field will also be used throughout the year by Baltimore City Schools. Last week it hosted the Digital Harbor vs. Patterson varsity football game, and on Sept. 20 JV boys and varsity girls soccer teams from Poly and City played there.

Alejandro Danois was a sports writer for The Banner. He specializes in long-form storytelling, looking at society through the prism of sports and its larger connections with the greater cultural milieu. The author of The Boys of Dunbar, A Story of Love, Hope and Basketball, he is also a film producer and cultural critic.

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