There are exceptions, of course. Some Dorsey players run with their gangs at night and on weekends and show up for practice only when it suits them. The Dons' coaches constantly face the dilemma of whether to discipline these players. Do you let a kid who breaks the rules stay on the team, or do you take away the only positive thing in his life? "It's probably the toughest decision we make," says coach Paul Knox.
Knox and his staff, most of them volunteers, are strong black men who serve not only as coaches but also as role models. They talk to their players like brothers. They listen to them like fathers. They try like hell to keep their players safe.
Especially tonight, in the Terrordome. The game begins. Somewhere across the street, gunfire erupts.
Before kickoff, the Dons' senior leaders keep a tight grip on themselves-and one another.
Some challenges of playing for Dorsey are more daunting than others. Roderick Brown hopes to become the starting quarterback. Antonio Carrion (6) worries about classes. Vincent Junor (9) lives with memories of a teammate who died in his arms of a gunshot wound.
Many of the Dons, who are the 4-A city champs, work as hard in the classroom as on the football field. Michael Bradfield (left) has a 3.0 GPA and helps support his mother and sister. Lewis (right) hopes to make the grades to play college ball. On game days, players wear their jerseys—and shades—to school.
Knox (above, left) teaches not only the fundamentals of football but also the fundamental of life. He demands that players respect one another. Thanks largely to him, they win—which gives them self-confidence, something hard to achieve in the inner city. Carrion (top, opposite) is one of the nation's top-rated receivers.
Finally. Game time at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Only as teammates could a Blood console a Crip (6). Gunfire has occasionally interrupted games, but the only injuries have come from competition. Lewis (42) fractured his ankle in two places and will miss the remainder of the season. What will happen to him now?