HARRISBURG, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A youth football team from Harrisburg says they’re fighting for a refund after a charter bus company canceled their transportation to their first out-of-town football game at the last minute.

The Harrisburg Cowboys 9U team has only lost one game in the past two years, so their coach, Jeffrey Sapp, thought it might be a good idea to try playing some new competition outside of the immediate area.  They scheduled a game in Wilmington for Sept. 23.

“We wanted to give them that full experience to go overnight, spend time with their teammates, and then get the charter bus—make it all look official,” said Sapp.

The coaches said the team fundraised in the preseason to be able to afford the special trip, which would mark their first overnight football experience. The coaches and parents wanted to make them feel like NFL players, with matching hoodies and a charter bus to take them to their destination.

The team paid Semper Fi Tours $2,600 to pick them up from Harrisburg Park on Sept. 22. The kids were already waiting at the park when the bus company’s owner texted Sapp, saying that he no longer felt comfortable driving the kids to their destination as Tropical Storm Ophelia had made landfall just 85 miles north.

“This was going to be a big experience for the kids, being away from their parents, and it kind of made them feel grown up,” said parent Kendal Hicks. “It totally bummed them out.”

Fortunately, team parents quickly stepped in to help drive the 33 teammates to Wilmington in time for their game.

According to text messages, Semper Fi promised to send a refund by Oct. 1. But the date came and went, and Sapp said he had trouble getting in touch with the owner.

He said he eventually got a hold of another employee with Semper Fi, who informed him he would receive his refund by Oct. 16. On that date, he says he was sent only $200.

“$2,600 to a youth football team is like winning the lottery,” said Sapp. “We don’t want anyone else to go through what we had to go through. It’s just frustrating.”

In a statement sent to Queen City News, Semper Fi Tours said:

“We canceled the trip due to a storm in Wilmington, which is the location they were going to. The storm was carrying strong winds and a bad thunderstorm. We didn’t see it fit to drive a bus full of children in that type of weather. We have refunded Mr. Sapp a portion of his money and will still refund him the remaining balance by the end of the month. We never said we wouldn’t.”

Sapp said Semper Fi was recommended to him by another youth football coach, but after a search on the Better Business Bureau, he learned the company has an “F” rating.