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Whittier Christian football community steps up to fight cancer

The Whittier Christian football team is participating in the Touchdowns Against Cancer campaign, and leads all Southern California schools in the fundraiser. Quarterback Quinn Commans, right, contributed three touchdowns in a win over Duarte last week. Funds, which go to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, are pledged based on how many touchdowns a team scores.

Whittier Christian High School will complete is nonleague schedule Friday night by traveling to south Orange County to face small school power St. Margaret’s in San Juan Capistrano at 7 p.m.

There will be a lot more on the line for the Heralds (4-1) than the winner of a football game.

Whittier Christian is one of several football programs in Southern California taking part in the MaxPreps and PLEDGE IT “Touchdowns Against Cancer” fund-raiser, which will provide needed money for cancer research to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Those wishing to contribute can do so on the internet at

It’s a campaign that hits close to home for the Heralds. Their classmate, Abbey Schemmer, succumbed to cancer this summer, just a few months from beginning her senior year at Whittier Christian. Schemmer’s brothers, Ryan and Kenny, played for the Heralds in recent seasons.

“We’re playing for more than a football game and the score,” Whittier Christian coach Sergio Gradilla said. “We’re playing for something that’s much more important. We’re raising awareness for cancer and really we’re playing for the Schemmer family and what they’ve meant to the football program.”

The campaign has been a big winner at Whittier Christian, which has by far raised the most funds among Southern California schools. The Heralds, who have scored 18 touchdowns during the past two games, have raised $9,843 at last count, which leads Southern California. Highland is second at $869. Other area schools in the program are Pioneer, Bonita and Azusa.

“It’s really personal for us,” Gradilla said. “With the two brothers and getting to know the family really well and getting to know Abbey and how she fought the cancer and how tough she was, so when she passed, it was really personal for us.

“It’s a great cause, and we’re definitely proud to being do it.”

That pride is felt throughout the school and community.

“Abbey died last summer and her brothers were big parts of our football program,” Whittier Christian athletics director Rolland Esslinger said. “It kind of resonated very strong on our campus and our football community. It’s great to see how everybody has gotten behind it.

“And we’ve score so many touchdowns the last couple of games, it’s been crazy. It’s been exciting to see. When you want the kids to look outside and beyond football, it’s neat to see something like this that strengthens that.”

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Published on September 29, 2016

by JohnPaul Bennett

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