THE CLASSIC: Crenshaw vs. Dorsey
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READY TO GET DOWN: Crenshaw and Dorsey will collide on Friday at 6p.m. at Crenshaw High Scholl in a battle of
the last remaining predominantly Black high schools in the city. And oh, byt the way they have produced more collegiate
and NFL players combined than any other prep rivalry.
I have known Dorsey’s football coach Paul Knox for all of his 28 years as football coach for the Dons, and I have known Crenshaw coach Robert Garrett longer than the 26 years he’s been the head coach for the Cougars.
Both have embraced the challenges at their respective schools that go way beyond the football and both are as comfortable in the spotlight as a deer is in headlights, thus making each of them the perfect role model for arguably for the two remaining predominantly Black schools in the Los Angeles City Section.
However, this week the two men who have invested their lives into transforming wayward teens into model citizens through the game of football, will be on the opposite ends of the spectrum when Dorsey (3-3) travels to Crenshaw (2-4) for annual bragging rights and the Coliseum League title on the menu.
Separated by less than three miles, the two schools are nestled in two neighborhoods that reflect different gang territories, and while violent throughout the years, these two football programs have managed to even smooth those rough edges.
Many of their students arrived on their campus from their equally shared feeder school Audubon Middle School, but their prowess on the grid iron has expanded their ultimate attraction to a national level.
In 2006, Dorsey was ranked the No. 2 high school in America for producing football talent to the National Football League.
By mere estimation Dorsey has produced some 20 NFL players led by the likes of Keyshawn Johnson Nail Diggs and the late Chris Mims who with Johnson are the only two first round draft picks from the school.
Dorsey alums don’t just make it to the NFL like Johnathan Franklin of the Green Bay Packers and Rahim Moore of the Denver Broncos, but one such as Kirby Wilson is a two time Super Bowl Champions with the Tampa Bay Bucs and Pittsburgh Steelers as an assistant coach.
Another, Hue Jackson, who was a starting quarterback at Dorsey, was an offensive coordinator with USC and then head coach with the Oakland Raiders just a couple of years ago.
Tradition of success at Dorsey goes well beyond the football field with notable alums such as former Congresswoman Diane Watson, Judge Joe Brown and the late O.J Simpson attorney, Robert Kardashian, to name a few. The late musical star Billy Preson and Marliyn McCoo, another singing star, prepped at Dorsey.
Crenshaw was recognized as a basketball school until Garrett arrived on campus.
A standout lineman for the late coach, Harry Littlefield, at Jefferson High School, Garrett and I attended Carver Middle School together and he was always a no-nonsense guy.
He’s Crenshaw to three City titles and a State Bowl game in 2009 when he and the Cougars enjoyed its best season going 14-1.
When he was named coach of the week by KABC channel 7, Garret explained to the network how he gets the most out of the few players he has at Crenshaw.
“Don’t have too many kids and don’t need many to play. But due to their hard work and tenacity and leadership, I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.”
He understands what its like growing up under difficult circumstances and will not allow for any of his players to use that as an excuse for not being successful.
“You heard it all. Whatever those attributes are — tough, loud and those things, but nevertheless we get results,” Garrett said. “I think the kids understand what that’s all about. You got to coach them up hard anyway at any level.”
Garrett has had his share of players to make it to the NFL such as Akbar Gbaja Biamila, who starred with the Oakland Raiders and his brother Kbeer Gbaja Biamila, who starred with the Green Bay Packers.
“It’s putting an inkling into society, and probably hoping society would be a better place to live when you leave,” Garrett said of his achievement.
Another, Brandon Mebane, plays in the NFL and yet another, D’Anthony Thomas, is a superstar for No. 2 ranked Oregon and is expected to become great at the pro level.
Crenshaw has his share of famous alumni too such as former baseball great, Darryl Strawberry, and basketball stars, John Williams, who played several years in the NBA and Kevin Ollie, who is head coach for the University of UConn after playing in the NBA for over a decade.
When each of these two teams suit up on Friday night at Crenshaw on a field that didn’t have lights until 2004 when acting legend, Kirk Douglas made a significant donation, they are representing more than just their respective schools and the history behind them, they reflective of something a whole lot bigger—the pride and soul of Black America.