Directors of Docuseries About Baltimore High School Football Team Say Viewers Will Be 'Inspired'

A storied high school football team's triumphs and tragedies are being highlighted in a new docuseries from HBO Sports.

The four-part docuseries, titled The Cost of Winning, will follow the football team at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, Maryland. The St. Frances Academy football team was expelled from their private school league in 2018 for being "too good" and forced to create an independent schedule.

Many of the student-athletes come mostly from a neighborhood plagued by gun violence. In addition to difficult lives outside of school, the team also deals with inadequate facilities and resources, all part of the docuseries.

"I wanted to explore this story more because ultimately above all it provides an accurate and realistic depiction of what it's like to grow up as a young Black male in America today," co-director Rob Ford tells PEOPLE. "During my undergrad in the early 2000s at Howard University, I got a chance to experience Baltimore firsthand and witness the challenges faced by the Black community."

He continues, "Almost 20 years later, when I see the kids at St. Frances desperately trying to survive Baltimore and find a way out to a better life against insurmountable odds, it's chilling how much I see myself at 17 years old attending Crenshaw High School trying to escape South Central [Los Angeles] and make it to college to get an education and change my life."

Ford says he wanted to tell a different version of what can be a traditionally "monotonous story of drugs, crime, and broken homes." The student-athletes at St. Frances are a "counter to the stereotypical cliché narrative by showcasing positive attributes of the black community like healthy families with two-parent households, Black men as supporting fathers, emphasis on education and entrepreneurship."

Ford's co-director Maurice Holden tells PEOPLE that after hearing the story of St. Frances' team, they were intrigued to know more. The team ran in the streets due to lack of a practice field or stadium, but despite it, finished among the top five high school teams in the country in 2017 and 2018.

Holden tracked down coach Biff Poggi's phone number, "and three days later I was in Baltimore."

And Holden says for the coaches, it's about more than football: "It was about building men for others, men of faith and character. It was about using the game rather than letting it use you. Yes, they wanted to win and win big, but they also wanted the kids to all go to college and have it paid for."

Both directors agree that the docuseries comes at the perfect time, and touches on topics beyond sports.

"Given the divisive climate of our country right now it's never been more paramount to illuminate stories like this that showcase the power of sports as a galvanizing force to provide a portrayal of hope and optimism for what America could be when we focus on unity and togetherness," Ford tells PEOPLE.

Adds Holden, "If you watch this series you'll be very entertained. But more importantly, you'll be inspired."

The first two episodes of The Cost of Winning — executive produced by TV host and former New York Giants player Michael Strahan and Constance Schwartz-Moriniwill — debut on HBO on Nov. 10 at 9 p.m. EST, with parts three and four airing the next night at the same time. The episodes will also be available to stream on HBO Max.






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