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Lodi soccer coach Mark Whittock plays to beat local gangs

Mark Whittock works to keep his team together, teach them life skills

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Posted: Saturday, July 21, 2012 12:00 am

A shuffling of grass and the shouts of “Aquí!” or “Here! Here!” could be heard from the street near Leroy Nichols Elementary School. A swift kick sent a soccer ball careening through the air. The screech of a whistle blowing drowned out the passing cars.

In the strangely cool afternoon weather Monday, a dozen middle school-aged boys spent their time sprinting around the soccer field. On the Eastside, where most of them are from, other teens beat their summer doldrums with gang activities. Some did drugs, some vandalized and others committed more frightening crimes like burglary.

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