In an exclusive interview from L.A. Sentinel staff writer, E. Mesiyah McGinnis, Dorsey High School head coach, Stafon Johnson, assesses his first year and returning to the school that made him a high school legend and future star at USC.
E. Mesiyah McGinnis LAS: How do you access your first season (2021) as head coach at the very same school that helped you become a high school and college legend?
We started with five players in June, most having never played football before, especially at a high level, but we just wanted to teach them football, knowing the life lessons would fall into place.
So, starting with five players to a 55-team roster was challenging but from where they came from and how they are now, is an amazing experience to be a part of.
The out-pour of love, the overwhelming support from the L.A. inner-city community and the DDP (Dorsey Don Posse) parents, fam, and alum, was major in supporting kids who were accustomed to failing, who were used to no one coming to see them play, but now experiencing this community showing up and telling these young people that they matter!
My coaching staff … we don’t make it without you through to a 10-3 season and semi-finals appearance. We made a commitment and taught this team how to play; we guided these young men and showed them love, and how to have fun while playing football, to feel the love of football the way we did as players.
We grew! I grew, the kids grew! I also want to thank the Pep Squad, Cheerleaders, the Band, the assistants on the field, the trainer, and Dorsey administration, teachers and staff, the groundskeepers, our amazing play-by-play announcer, Coach Black, and Rancho Park for the village that you are. You all made a huge impact.
I used a lot of my experiences to help me throughout the year to utilize the knowledge and high level of competitiveness I learned from my former USC coach, Pete Carrol, who brought that intensity every day. And I try my best to mimic the coolness of my former Dorsey coach, Paul Knox, who even under extreme pressure and heat, I never saw him lose composure.
I’m trying my best to do that but these refs! Just kidding, it was great playing with these officials; they care about the kids and are literally coaching them on the field, and I really appreciate them.
The biggest test we had this year was being down by 21 points but winning in double overtime in the quarter-finals against Cleveland High School. Look at God! I lot of the adversity these kids battle through, they needed that, to experience hard-fought losses and victories but in the end, understand it’s just a game and life moves on.
I want to thank the teams we played against and the coaches for the high level of competition. Together, we taught these young men to compete, but win or lose, shake hands and respect each other.
My parents have supported me since I was in Pop Warner and I thank my mom for going back to team mom mode and just being a supportive anchor. And to my dad who has always been a major supporter, my family, and the loyal friends who supported this team throughout the season.
To my players, I watched you become a true team. I love you. I would like to add that we had no ineligible players, five 4.0 GPA students, and eight with D1 college offers; this achievement with a group of kids who didn’t have 1-star rating combined in the preseason rankings by national scouts and analysts. The future is very bright for Dorsey High football. – Coach Stafon Johnson
Additional Photos by E. Mesiyah McGinnis / L.A. Sentinel
This story has been updated with images and copy.