Saturday, December 4, 2021

Dorsey and Crenshaw try to restore rivalry and legacy

It was an annual event that everyone in South Los Angeles knew about. Dorsey vs. Crenshaw. Family rivalry is the “turkey bowl,” as Stafon Johnson put it.

The memories of Johnson’s playing career, when he was an outstanding player at Dorsey, are still fresh. He can still see the blocked Crenshaw Boulevard, police convoys. He can still feel the serenity of his sophomore year playing Crenshaw by the light for the first time. Johnson played in national championships and Rose Bowles while at the University of Southern California, but no game really matched.

For the past two years, these memories have flickered like flames in the wind, trying to avoid strong gusts of wind. The community has changed. COVID-19 has destroyed programs. Every day brings a new challenge.

However, they are here today, sitting with undefeated records at the top of the Colosseum League, ready for a head-to-head fight for the title on Friday that some believe could revive one of the city’s most famous rivals.

“He will never die,” said Johnson, now Dorsey’s coach. “We didn’t play in 2020, so it looks like the beginning of this decade. And I think every decade tells its own story of the Dorsey Crenshaw extravaganza. “

Dorsey held the 80s and 90s – during which time he won four titles in the City Section – during the days of Keeshon Johnson and Nail Diggs. Crenshaw made a name for himself in the late 2000s, winning consecutive championships in 2009 and 2010 with the participation of De’Anthony Thomas, as well as in 2013.

DJ Dawson from Santa Margherita battles Stafon Johnson as he plays for Dorsey during an intersection game at Jackie Robinson Stadium in 2005.

(Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times) #

Robert Garrett, Crenshaw’s coach since 1988, just doesn’t feel like the rivalry is the same.

“The crowd and participation have decreased,” Garrett said. “The hype has died down.”

He feels that this is a sign of the times. A sign that looks like the old Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, which was sold a few months ago to a developer who plans to build a more modern complex. For example, the Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Hills, built on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in 2017. Construction progress on the Crenshaw / LAX line.

Accordingly, gentrification has influenced changes in the community. Over time, Johnson said, he devastated the territory of the families that were once part of the great battles of Dorsey-Crenshaw. He feels the intensity, but not the story.

“That’s what we’re here as the coaching staff for,” said Johnson, hired in 2019. “I, I played the game and I realized what that means – not just for our program, but for the community as well. in general – and [we hope to] bring it to the children and make it yourself. “

Dorsey quarterback Josh Coleman grew up loitering around the Dorsey football field at the Rancho Cienega sports complex, and heard stories of rivalry – the prestige of the Friday Night Lights of players like Thomas.

“This is definitely something I’ve been looking forward to since the first time I came here,” said Coleman, who moved to Dorsey in February 2020. – You grow up with many of these children. And on Friday night one goes to another school, and you go to another school, and it may be your neighbor on the street. “

Dorsey defender Josh Coleman speaks to fans in the stands of Jackie Robinson Stadium.

Dorsey defender Josh Coleman speaks to fans in the stands at Jackie Robinson Stadium after the game.

(Luca Evans / The Times)

Coleman has been looking forward to it for over a year and a half since COVID-19 destroyed Dorsey’s 2020 season and limited Crenshaw to two games. Even he feels that the rivalry has “subsided a little.”

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It’s hard to maintain that hot feeling of competition as programs have at times struggled to survive over the past couple of years. Garrett had to cancel Crenshaw’s first game of the season, initially with just 16 players. Johnson had to cancel Dorsey’s first game because the county didn’t have enough nurses to clean up his team.

Dorsey had to find his own transport to transport the children to and from COVID-19 testing sites so that players were eligible to compete. The season is overshadowed by cancellations. Crenshaw’s field still has a sticky substance discovered over the summer that Garrett says caused several of his players to have leg injuries after their spikes got stuck in the grass.

“This is not good, okay? Oh boy. It’s useless … but this is the hand we got, ”Garrett said. “You have to move on because you have nothing to say. And if you tell someone, you just complain. “

End-of-season night games are now in jeopardy due to the Los Angeles Unified School District bus driver shortage, which will move the Crenshaw-Dorsey competition to 16:00. “It’s not a way to play competitive games,” Coleman said. Johnson is fed up.

“Do you see this happening with any of the CIFs? [Southern Section] schools? “Johnson said.” That certainly sounds like a disadvantage. We don’t even have the funds for another alternative route. Come on, dude. “

Dorsey Defense Coordinator Dan Robinson is confident the program can find a solution that includes a private bus or coaches and parents who will take the children to play.

“The community can’t get out [work] at four o’clock to watch the game, ”Robinson said. “I don’t know how we’re going to get to this point, but we’re going to get to this point.”

Despite all this, the programs still work – in fact, they are now flourishing. Johnson said community members have stepped up by donating money, food, and water for refreshments during and after play to keep the kids from starving, as well as providing transportation to keep them from going outside at night.

Crenshaw is 4-2 this season. Dorsey is 6-2. For the first time since 2017, both programs have won.

“Here we are, no matter what,” Johnson said. “I think it just shows the resilience of both schools and how much we really care about what we play and what we do.”

According to Coleman, everyone in the Dorsey community is now moving into “Crenshaw mode.” The corridors are buzzing. Teachers talk about setting a weekend schedule to make the game. The quarterback himself is thrilled to finally become part of the “aggression” in the rivalry.

Johnson and Garrett are tired of fighting a tough fight. Nothing surprises them anymore. Johnson said coaches make less than $ 10 an hour.

Still, it’s worth it for them to keep their programs to pass the baton.

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