Click here to see a slideshow with more photos.

Edward Chapp loves football and his community. Over the last two years, the Riverside resident has effectively merged his two passions as owner/head coach of the Chicago Mustangs semi-pro football team, which plays its home games at Riverside-Brookfield High School’s Shuey Stadium.

The “newest team in town” is already making a positive impression locally, finishing 9-4 last season, making several public appearances around the community, and offering an affordable alternative of entertainment for families and football fans.

“Our first year we played our games at Morton [High School],” said Chapp, who grew up in Cicero. “My family and I moved to Riverside six years ago. Two of my kids go to RB.

“The opportunity came up to utilize the RB stadium and football field, so we made it happen. The field is very conducive to our style of play, which is a wide-open spread offense.”

Chapp and the Mustangs submitted a facility usage form to rent the stadium for practices and games. Since school board approval a few years ago, the Mustangs have installed a comprehensive game plan that goes well beyond the playing field. They’ve sponsored a dance at Blythe Park School where players and dancers signed autographs and mingled with the students. A member of the Riverside Chamber of Commerce, the Mustangs also participated in Riverside’s Fourth of July parade. The team further publicized its games by circulating door hangers throughout the community, which included free tickets to its home opener this season.

“We’re seeing more fans come out to our games,” Chapp said. “We had over 100 responses to the door hangers [promotion] and we’re using digital media like Facebook and YouTube to spread the word about our organization.”

The relationship between RB High School and the Mustangs, notably RB Athletic Director Art Ostrow and Chapp, helped bring semi football to the area. The Mustangs practice two times a week after 8 p.m. at Shuey Stadium, so there are no scheduling conflicts with RB athletics.

“Art is a great guy,” Chapp said. “He’s the person who really wanted to give us this opportunity. We’ve been able to fulfill what we said we would as an organization on the field and within the community. We want to represent this community well.

“[Riverside Mayor] Michael Gorman has been wonderful as well. He’s an honorary captain who does our coin toss before games, and he’s always keeping an eye on our progress through our website.”

Chapp fondly recalls a few times this summer when Mustangs players offered support to some of the RB football players in-between practices.

“Our players feel like some of these RB kids could be playing with them in three or four years,” Chapp said. “Art and I have talked about possibly doing some cool things where the teams interact more. The RB Pom Poms team will be performing with our dancers at a couple of our games this year.”

Linebacker Jim Biesiada has relished calling RB the Mustangs’ gridiron home.

“RB has a beautiful stadium and field,” the former Bremen star said. “It’s a good place for fans to come out and watch some good football. The place was packed for our first home game [a 16-3 win over the Leyden Lions on July 16.].

Chapp also feels like the RB community is a perfect long-term fit for the Mustangs, who proudly refer to their home turf as “The Zoo.”

“Anybody who lives here knows there really is no better place to live in Chicagoland,” Chapp said. “We felt by bringing the Mustangs here we could enhance an already wonderful community.”

The team is comprised of ex-high school, college and occasionally even NFL players. Chapp has coached a few locals as well, most notably John Passarella, Mike Clark and Ryan Krueger.

“All three guys are outstanding athletes with great attitudes,” Chapp said. “We want to get more local players involved in our program. When guys graduate from RB or LT, some of them may go on to play college football, but our outlet to play football in their hometown will be here.”

Krueger, who played at Lyons Township, recently earned a scholarship to play college football at Lake Forest College.

“Our mission is to help players pursue opportunities playing football, whether it’s college, arena or the NFL,” Chapp said. “These players carry a real love for the game.”

The Mustangs (1-2) host the N.I. Cowboys on Saturday (7 p.m.) at RB. The team’s other home games – both 7 p.m. kickoffs – are against the Dane County Hawks (Aug. 13) and the Monona Warriors (Aug. 27).

General tickets are $8, $4 for senior citizens and active military (with ID). Children 12 and under are free. 

This article has been updated to correct that Ryan Krueger earned a scholarschip to play football at Lake Forest College.

 Photos by J. GEIL/Photo Editor