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Arson destroys football, cheerleading equipment

August 17, 2010 2:22:23 PM PDT
The practice equipment for the Raritan Bay Cougars football and cheerleading teams is now charred rubble. The kids were just starting practice for the fall season, and this fire is a real setback.

The Raritan Bay cheerleaders have no practice mats and the Pop Warner football players' hit dummies were destroyed in the fire that police say was intentionally set.

"It's just terrible that someone could do that," 12-year-old Kristen Lopez said.

Sunday night just after seven, a passerby called Old Bridge police and reported the smoke and flames coming from the equipment trailer. By the time firefighters extinguished the blaze, more than 20-thousand dollars in equipment was ruined.

"You're part of the Cougar family and when something like this happens emotions take over. There are no words," football coach Robert Franqui said.

Fire investigators believe the arsonists used matches or a lighter to ignite one equipment trailer, and then tried unsuccessfully to light another on fire.

"I've been going here every day and we use that stuff. Now, we have nothing to use," player Brandon Smith said.

The 20-25 thousand dollar cost to replace the damaged equipment is insurmountable for this youth league. The town recently cut funding for the teams from its budget, and many families are struggling to come up with the sixty dollar registration fee. Now all the football and cheerleading coaches can do is hope for donations.

"We're at a standstill. They can't tumble or stunt on the grass," cheerleading director Clarissa Morrabal said.

Youth league officials in Princeton have already offered to lend the Raritan Bay cheerleaders their practice mats. The football teams are still struggling to practice without all of their equipment, but they're confident it won't cost them any games this season.

If you can offer assistance in donating equpment, please contact Robert Franqui at rfranqui@optonline.net or 732-721-4345.

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