The Crenshaw Cougars football team was in transition after a contending 2015 campaign. Several players who helped propel the team to the City Section Championship match have graduated; new leaders had to enforce that momentum in newer players.
To help his team, senior quarterback Daiyan Henley pressured himself to lead by example.
“Last year, I was surrounded with a lot more people that I played years with and this year is a younger team,” said Henley. “I’m somebody that they look up to and have to make sure that everything that they see me do is always in a positive light.”
Before the playoffs, the cougars had a 5-7 overall record, coming in at fourth place in the Coliseum League. This is very different from their 9-5 record in 2015. Along with new additions to the team, several players suffered from injuries.
Their season came to an end the same way as it did last year, in a battle against the legion of Narbonne Gauchos. Last season, Crenshaw competed valiantly against the Gauchos for the City Section title resulting in a 21-57 loss for the cougars.
The two teams met sooner this year, Crenshaw earned the ninth seed in the playoffs and defeated Venice 40-20; they faced the Gauchos in the second round. Narbonne decimated Crenshaw with a 47-7 win.
Players like Henley and senior Michael Bernard discovered ways to encourage a fighter’s spirit among teammates and took responsibility of their actions on field.
Bernard recalled the cougars’ game against the Oxnard Yellowjackets in September; the defense had given away a few touchdowns. Crenshaw head coach Robert Garrett was not pleased with the performance of certain players, including Bernard.
“I found it within myself to kind of step up to the best of my ability,” he said. “I was being so determined to make every play at every time.”
Crenshaw struggled with maintaining a sense of passion and initiative to win games through adversity until they faced the undefeated Hawkins Hawks. The game came after Crenshaw’s 12-42 loss to Dorsey.
“We were down…then after that, we [started] back the second half, playing hard,” said senior Jelani Harris. “We [were] fighting hard, but the time ran out.”
Although the cougars lost to the hawks 44-60, the game was a memorable moment for Henley.
“I feel that was our hardest fought game of the season,” Henley said.