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Hamilton players are undeterred

The title-game-bound Yankees keep working around obstacles.

December 10, 2009|By Mark Medina

The Hamilton High football team, which will play Woodland Hills El Camino Real for the Los Angeles City Section Division II championship on Friday, was booted from its field Wednesday because of a girls' soccer game.

So it goes when organizers aren't used to football being played on campus this time of year.

After all, the school has been around for 78 years and this is its first appearance in a football title game.

High school football: An article in Thursday's Sports section on Hamilton High's success said senior running back Charles Wilhelm is part of the quick-strike offense. The player's name is Connor Wilhelm. —

Despite the inconvenience -- the team took a 45-minute bus ride to Rancho Cienega Sports Complex's Jackie Robinson Field for practice -- spirits remain high.

"Don't worry about the negatives," Coach Kelvin Moore stresses. "Worry just about the positives."

There have been plenty of those in a 10-3 season that has featured a quick-strike offense led by quarterback Torey Whitfield, running back Charles Wilhelm and receivers Donnie Duncan and Tremaine Love, all seniors.

But there also have been plenty of obstacles.

Though the coaching staff estimates that only a few players on the 34-member varsity roster are affiliated with gangs, there is a constant fear those numbers could increase. For example, Moore said about half of the 2006 team came from gangs.

Hamilton also has two players who are autistic, and a school therapist is present at all practices and games in case intervention is necessary.

Add in some financial challenges and a 45-minute bus ride seems rather insignificant.

Though the school rented lights for last week's playoff game against Fairfax, some of the team's 13 volunteer coaches say they absorb some of the cost. They said they paid a combined $10,000 for uniforms, equipment, pregame meals and rented stadium lights for a second-round playoff game Nov. 25 against Franklin.

The coaching staff also will pay to charter buses for Friday's game at East Los Angeles College.

"The emphasis from the school is on academics and on fine arts," said Adam Golding, who has held various coaching positions with the program for 25 years. "Athletics comes second no matter how successful you are."

Chuck Price, who was Hamilton's quarterback in 1981 and 1982 and was last season's junior varsity coach, says the championship appearance has energized the school's alumni, which includes former NFL stars Warren Moon, Rod Martin and Stephen Baker.

"Anybody who has been involved in the football program in the last 25 years is excited," he said.

That was evident under the lights in Hamilton's last two playoff games, played in front of standing room crowds, a big change from the atmosphere at regular-season contests.

Hamilton games played on campus typically draw only about 100 spectators because they start at 3 p.m., about an hour before school ends.

That's why the Yankees feel the pressure to win.

"It makes it seem like more people are behind us," Love said. "They care and want us to win."

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