Riding on the Los Angeles Jordan team bus from Watts to Santa Ana on Thursday night for its game against Mater Dei, I made the mistake of asking a stupid question of Coach Elijah Asante.
I was wondering whether his team of 25 players might be intimidated when first walking into Santa Ana Stadium and seeing 82 Mater Dei players dressed in their pristine red uniforms.
"I've been to four funerals this year," Asante said.
"Do you think these kids are intimidated? It's just football."
What I learned spending eight hours behind the scenes with the Bulldogs is that they have a coach making a difference, and they have players who follow instructions, are willing to sacrifice their bodies for the good of the team and are proud of where they come from.
Asante is a USC law-school graduate who gave up entertainment law for the love of coaching. He beat out 10 other candidates to become Jordan's head coach four years ago, and what a job he has done building the program.
While others laughed at his idea of scheduling Southern Section powers Anaheim Esperanza, Ventura St. Bonaventure and Mater Dei for three consecutive nonleague games, his team has come out of the experience much stronger and ready to make a run at a City Championship despite a 1-3 record.
"Our environment isn't conducive to having a great program, but if you can do it under these conditions, it's a great charge," he said. "I emulate what we do off those three programs. We chose them because we know they're the best."
What everyone has learned from their tough schedule is that Jordan has a group of skill-position players as good as any team around.
Quarterback James Boyd, receivers DeShawn Beck and Delvon Purvis, safety Eric Hunter, freshman cornerback Raymond Ford and freshman linebacker Patrick Wooten all have a chance to play college football if they take care of their academics.
Asante, in a pregame talk, tried to remind his players that one of their teammates who was killed in a shooting earlier this year, Bruce Adams, should have been playing against Mater Dei.
"Tanky belongs in this room right now," he said.
He challenged his players to have fun and not waste the opportunity. Jordan came out and opened a 20-0 lead before losing, 49-32.
The comparisons of the two programs were startling. Jordan showed up in a yellow school bus while Mater Dei had two air-conditioned charter buses.
Jordan assistant coach Frank Lewis, who works as a Los Angeles City firefighter, served as the team trainer, taping athletes. Mater Dei had its own training crew.
Jordan couldn't wear white jerseys because they haven't arrived yet and they had some mismatched blue jerseys. Mater Dei players were perfectly dressed in 82 red jerseys.
All that was beside the point. The Bulldogs just wanted to play football, and they did.
"We're warriors," Asante said.
It was a tough week for Compton Dominguez.
The boys' basketball coach, Russell Otis, was put on administrative leave while the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's special victims unit investigates an allegation, according to a law enforcement source who provided the information on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation. Otis' attorney, Leonard Levine, said his client is eager to be interviewed by authorities so he can "clear his name."
An ex-football player, Maurice Simmons, was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in a robbery.
The new football coach, Cornell Ward, quit after four consecutive losses, saying he didn't have time to make practices because of a job conflict.
And the Southern Section executive committee upheld a decision to ban all Dominguez sports teams from being host to home playoff games for failure to deliver gate revenue in a timely manner.
"It's been tough," former football coach Willie Donerson said.
The good news is that Donerson, the head football coach for 24 years, is coming back on a voluntary basis to help Jose Rosa, the interim coach. Donerson said the school was "in chaos" last semester after the principal was sidelined in December because of illness.
"There was nobody leading the troops," he said.
He insists, "The school is by no means going down."
But a rescue plan is needed to get Dominguez out of this mess.