By Matt Mauney | Associate Editor
Karel Hamilton is one of those players who speaks with his play on field.
He’s soft-spoken and reserved in a conversation, but when he lines up in pads and a helmet, he is loud and outgoing.
The Strawberry Crest senior is a well-disciplined hard worker — one of those guys who will give you everything and do just about anything to help his team succeed, no questions asked.
That type of player is hard to come by, but when one comes along with the talent and potential Hamilton has — it’s special. Just ask Chargers head coach John Kelly.
“He’s a great kid with a great attitude and never complains — no matter what happens,” Kelly said. “Any way he can contribute, he does, and he’s done that all season.”
Through seven games this season, Hamilton has 41 catches for 741 yards and nine touchdowns. He has more than 100 yards receiving in four games this season and has caught at least one touchdown pass in each of the Chargers seven games, including last week’s 76-7 romp against visiting Leto, where the Chargers only threw the ball 11 times and had backups play the entire second half.
In addition to being a standout receiver, Hamilton is a threat as a punt and kick returner.
After returning two kicks back against Leto last season, the Falcons made the same mistake last week, kicking in Hamilton’s direction. Hamilton scored the first points of the game on a 55-yard punt return in the first quarter. After Leto scored its only points of the game, Hamilton returned a kickoff 98 yards for a score.
“We called a return to the left, so when I saw they kicked it to the right side, I just came to the left where my blockers would be and just followed them and made one cutback, then I was gone,” he said about the return.
It’s no secret that Hamilton is Kelly’s go-to guy on offense and special teams, but the 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior is also a threat on the defensive side of the ball — he’s played safety in certain packages this season. So far, he has one interception and two forced fumbles.
“My coaches look out for me and make sure that I’m ready to go on defense,” he said. “If I’m too tired, I’ll just tell them, but usually, I play in third-and-long situations — just to make sure we have someone who can watch the deep pass and go up and get the ball.”
With a player with Hamilton’s versatility and play-making ability, it’s hard to believe he is still awaiting his first college scholarship offer, but according to Kelly, that may change soon.
“He’s very close; I had three schools contact me this week about him,” Kelly said.
According to Kelly, Western Kentucky is close to pulling the trigger. If that happens, Hamilton will have his first Division I FBS offer — WKU plays in the Sun Belt.
“They are very high on him and will most likely be offering him soon,” Kelly said. “I really think that he’ll have quite a few by the end of the season.”
Hamilton had a strong junior season, but with a 1-9 team record and few stats and highlights to promote him, the exposure was at a minimum. Since Kelly has taken over the team, Hamilton said that aspect has gotten much better.
“Last season, it was hard because our stats on MaxPreps weren’t up to date, and coach Kelly has just done a good job of just trying to sell me,” he said. “I want to play in college, so hopefully that works out, but if not, my focus will be education and then maybe trying to walk-on somewhere.”
Contact Matt Mauney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OTHER GAMES ON DECK
Durant at East Bay
Last week: The Durant defense gave up more points against Newsome than it had in its previous six games combined, but Durant held on for a 38-28 win after the Cougars came away with four turnovers. Jamarlon Hamilton had more than 150 yards and two touchdowns in the win, and Durant improved to 7-0. East Bay improved to 3-4 with a 24-12 road win against Plant City. The Indians had a balanced attack, with Chris Carpentier completing 7-of-13 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns, while four East Bay players combined for 183 rushing yards.
Last meeting: Durant defeated East Bay 45-28 last season.
Plant City at Brandon
Last week: The Raiders fell below .500 last week with a 24-12 loss to East Bay for Plant City’s homecoming. Quarterback Nick Rodriguez threw for 329 yards in the loss, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Plant City was still missing standout freshman running back Ervin Micheal, but Colby Diers and Jordan Robinson combined for 100 yards on the ground. Freshman Tavares Chase had four catches for 85 yards. Brandon picked up its first win of the season last week, beating Riverview 16-8. Offensively, the Eagles got it done on the ground, with 268 rushing yards. Senior Cyrus Dooley had 75 yards, while fellow senior Isiah Harris had 74.
Last meeting: Brandon held off Plant City at home last year, 48-36.