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Hales Franciscan; Undefeated Off the Field
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By Vincent Johnson (9/27/2006)

Head coach Andre Williams started coaching in high school 14 years ago, he made a move over to Hales, because he felt a disconnect with the students at some of the large enrolment high schools he was at. “A friend of mine told me about possibly going to a private school because they tend to have smaller class sizes. I had actually just applied here to be a teacher and was talking about helping out the program. At the same time the head coaching job opened up. I basically went out on a limb and applied for the job and landed it.”

While landing the job as the head coach of Hales might not sound like something that would be highly sought after, Williams still shows the passion you’d expect he might have had in his first season. “

It's only fitting that as an algebra teacher, the first things Williams would address were the team’s number and not their playbook. “I knew right off the bat we just didn’t have the numbers. My first season we officially dressed 19 guys and in the Catholic League you can’t serve water with 19 guys.” This year the Spartans are dressing an average of 34 players a week, which is one of the best showings in years. “In the past you might have had coaches dressing 35 or more one week, but 20 to 25 the next, so it’s looking pretty good for us. My major concern was trying to build the numbers & loyalty.”

He makes no attempts to hide the fact that it’s not easy to do, keeping kids out on the team. “It’s difficult in two parts. One, the lack of success with football and two the success we have with basketball”.

While some schools who have a large alumni base that played football and are always interested in helping out at practices or on game day, Williams is happy to say that that is the one area that hasn’t been a problem for him. “All of us have some type of relationship to each other outside of football. We’re a family. My defensive coordinator & I have known each other since 1988.”

Getting beat by the likes of Chicago’s Mt. Carmel 61-6 earlier this year or other Catholic League powerhouses can have a toll on a coach, but Williams stresses the fact that the team is a family. “It’s frustrating when the kids don’t execute like you want them to, but once you get home and shake off the frustrations of a defeat. You know that those guys are going to be there for you come [Monday’s practice] or next year.”

Both Thornton and Williams agree that there is some work cut out for them when it comes to the football program. Most of all, not being able to say what you really want to. Williams sums it up best, “It’s hard for us to complement our guys. They need to execute. We don’t ignore what they do, but we know that they’re very immature [as football players] right now and once you tell them ‘great job, great job’, they think mission accomplished. They know it and we know it, but they know we’re coming from a tough background, so it’s like good job, keep it going, but we can’t truly give them the praise we want.”

With the school undergoing a long over due renovation, sponsored in part by Juanita & Michael Jordan, Thornton sees the possible improvements helping bring in more students, and maybe down the road more student athletes. “Who knows what the school will be like 10 years from now.” he said.

Williams, has the same optimism, but his is of a nearer future. Timing is a big part of what he feels will lead to success. “The last three years I’ve lost like one good lineman a year. I’ve got two good linemen this year & they’ll both be back next year. Our junior class is very solid, this team that I have this year, I’ll have next year. In the past we had guys who wanted to play the game. Now we have football players. The setting is right there, we’re in position this year and next to possibly turn a few heads, to be that Cinderella story.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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