CHICAGO (CBS) — Across the Chicago area, high school students are gearing up for football season.

Many players are dreaming of big games and championships, but as CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports, those dreams have been shattered for some athletes before the school year even begins.

High school seniors De’Quan Thompson and Stephan Triplett were among a handful of players ruled ineligible to play following their transfer from Fenger High School to Chicago Vocational Career Academy.

“We got word from Fenger through the principal that we were so-called illegally recruited,” Triplett says.

Chicago Public Schools would not confirm that claim but released a statement saying, in part, “The rules are in place to maintain a level and competitive playing field for all schools.”

“I actually cried that night. It hurt,” Thompson says. “It’s my last year in high school, probably my last chance to get into a good college, and I feel like they just took it away from me.”

The players deny being recruited. They say they left Fenger because they didn’t feel safe.

“It’s just too much violence. Everywhere you go, it’s something going on,” Triplett says.

Stephan’s mother says not letting her son and his friends play ball is practically a death sentence.

“They’re going to wind up either in jail or dead,” Shanta Martin says.

The teens agree.

CPS says the students can return to Fenger, where they would be eligible to play, but both of the players say they would rather be in a school where they feel safe.

The teens and their family are also talking to lawyer about any possible legal action.