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BIG WIN: Crenshaw senior Geno Hall, left was all smiles after catching the winning touchdown pass.Â He was one of several players who factored in the Cougarâ€™s win over Lakewood. This week, the Cougars host Norco in another must-see intersectional game.Â Â Â Â Â Â
Photo Credit: Jason Lewis for Sentinel
Crenshaw leads big week for City schools
By Evan Barnes
Sentinel Sports Editor
The City Section made quite a statement in Week Zero with several wins, none bigger than Crenshaw's 28-27 win over Lakewood.
With the win over one of the Pac-5 division title favorites, Crenshaw not only staked its claim as the favorite to win the City, but took a giant step toward its chances at the state bowl.
Most impressive about their win was their aggressive play down the stretch. Junior quarterback Marquis Thompson led a 70-yard drive for the go-ahead score, including a 4th-and-1 pass to Geno Hall that set up the touchdown two plays later.
Thompson (14/17, 167 yards) had ended the first half with an interception and on that critical play, he threw a low ball that Hall somehow gathered to keep the drive alive. It was the reverse of last year when on the Cougar's last drive against Lakewood, he threw an interception to end the game.
Â "He needed that for his self morale," Crenshaw coach Robert Garrett said.
After being stifled all night by Lakewood's strong line, the Cougar defense finally got to Lakewood quarterback Jesse Scroggins on the final drive, sacking him and forcing two incompletions on their final series.
This is a team that learned from suffering two close losses last year to Lakewood in their season opener and Narbonne in the City semifinals. Instead of folding under pressure, they responded by pushing back and making big plays against Lakewood.
Senior cornerback Le'Jon Baker blocked a punt in the third quarter and returned it for a touchdown. Defensive lineman Shannon Penn sacked Scroggins in the fourth to stifle the Lancers momentum. And Hall caught everything thrown his way with 11 receptions (five on the final drive) for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
Â "All our pups are growing up as doggies," Garrett said. "We've got a lot of maturing to do but they showed a lot of growth and leadership tonight."
Another test comes this Friday with Norco, but with their motivation high, it's hard not to make them a favorite in that game either.
"That's the hard part winning one like this. It's continuing to win so you have to take it one game at a time," Garrett said.
Crenshaw's victory was the icing on a great day for the City. Carson scored a 14-2 victory over Mater Dei to avenge last year's triple overtime loss while Westchester and Hamilton also secured wins.
City teams have started beefing up their schedule to better prepared for the playoffs and impress the state bowl committee. It worked with Birmingham in 2007 - defeating Long Beach Poly and Sherman Oaks Notre Dame - but no City contender prevailed over the Southern Section in 2008.
After last week, I'd be curious to see how this motivates Narbonne and Taft, especially since the Gauchos face Long Beach Poly on Sept. 18. Poly was one of Week Zero's major casualties, suffering a 30-7 loss to Anaheim Servite.
One thing is for sure. The City has gotten stronger the last few years and as more teams schedule tougher opponents, upsets like these will be more common and less surprising.
What to Watch in Week One- Crenshaw/Norco: Last year's game was scoreless late until Norco broke through and pitched a shutout. Can the Cougars make it two quality wins in a row? Or will Norco play spoiler to a dream season.
- LA Jordan senior DeShawn Beck impressed in his season debut (273 rushing yards) against Locke but he and his teammates will travel down to Orange County to face Anaheim Esperanza. It'll be another test for their "Attack the Weakness" scheme that will keep defenses on their toes all year.
- Compton Clash: Centennial travels to Compton for an intra-city rivalry game at 5 p.m. Friday., the first meeting between two schools in at least nine years.
But let Compton coach Calvin Bryant tell it, his team is more focused on just being ready than embracing a long-time rival.
"We're anxious to get on the field and see how all the things we did in the summer turns out," Bryant said
Centennial, led by former Crenshaw HS and UCLA assistant coach Eric Scott, is coming a 1-9 season last year.