Description from TIFF 2011 catalogue by Thom Powers:
Football doesn’t build character, coach Bill Courtney tells his players, “football reveals character.” In 2004, Courtney took on the daunting job of volunteer coaching at Manassas High School in inner-city Memphis, where players are more likely to wind up in jail than in college. The Manassas Tigers were the perennial whipping boys of the league, bereft of victories, funds and morale. Courtney recruited a group of freshmen to turn things around, and in their first season they got creamed. But they didn’t quit. With each passing year they won more games and more respect. By 2009, those freshmen had become seniors with one last chance to prove themselves and snag college scholarships. At the start of the season, Courtney set a goal: to win the first playoff game in the school’s 110-year history.
Filmmakers Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin had the sharp instincts to jump on this story at the start of the 2009 season. They distinguish themselves with virtuoso camera work and editing. From the film’s opening minutes, as Courtney delivers an impassioned locker-room speech, we’re hooked. Our emotional investment only deepens as we get to know the players. O.C. Brown, who has the size and speed of a human freight train, counts on a football scholarship as his best hope for the future. Chavis Daniels returns to Manassas after fifteen months in a youth penitentiary and struggles with personal demons. Montrail “Money” Brown, an undersized offensive lineman, strives to overachieve and win an academic scholarship. The pressure to succeed is compounded by an environment where poverty, broken homes and street violence are the norm.
Coach Courtney feels his own pressures as he pours energy into these kids at the expense of spending time with his own children. As the drama ratchets up week after week, the stakes are higher than just winning and losing football games. You’ve probably never heard of the Manassas Tigers, but by the end of the film you’ll be cheering them on like an ardent fan.