Advertisement

Defensive trio may be Crenshaw High’s key to stopping Dorsey

One dreams of being a cadet at the Air Force Academy. Another is a soft-spoken, muscular teenager so raw with football ability that his coach calls him the “best-kept secret” in Los Angeles. The third has been starting for so long in high school that he should be growing specks of gray hair.

Yohance Salimu, Junior Alexis and James Brock are the Los Angeles Crenshaw High football team’s three defensive stoppers. Each plays on the line and has a story to tell about success and aspirations as the trio prepares for a Coliseum League championship game against unbeaten Los Angeles Dorsey on Friday at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

The 6-foot-1, 225-poud Salimu is determined to attend the Air Force Academy. He has a 3.8 grade-point average, has been taking advanced placement classes and speaks with the confidence of a military officer.

“It’s a goal of mine that I’ve had for a long time,” he said. “Going to Air Force is a big deal for me. I’m not just a football player who wants to go there and outshine people physically, or a guy who’s really good in robotics. I want to be the best of both.”

Advertisement

As a defensive end, Salimu uses his quickness and intelligence to disrupt offenses.

He was born to be a Cougar, growing up in an apartment building across the street from campus. And he refuses to let anyone or anything stop him from pursuing his ambitions.

“I’ve always been a little bit brighter than a lot of my peers, and instead of hiding it I’ve chosen to exploit it and to show how great I can be and to try to achieve something better than what I see around me,” he said. “I think it’s that drive I possess that makes me pursue such goals.”

Alexis, 6-3, 240 pounds, is a senior defensive tackle who Coach Robert Garrett says “falls into the category of some of the better defensive linemen we’ve had, and is the best-kept secret.”

Advertisement

Garrett compares Alexis to Brian Price ( Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Brandon Mebane ( Seattle Seahawks) and Terrell Turner (Oregon), which shows how much potential he has.

Alexis’ parents are from Haiti and he moved from Miami to Los Angeles when he was 5. He didn’t start playing tackle football until he came to Crenshaw as a freshman, and as his strength and speed have increased, his performances have become better and better. An older brother who died this year after an illness serves as inspiration.

“I like being more physical than trying to avoid the man,” he said. “I like taking things head-on.”

He has a 3.3 grade-point average and could be developing into a top college prospect.

Advertisement

Then there’s Brock, a 5-9, 225-pound two-time All-City selection who has been starting since he was moved up to varsity for the playoffs as a freshman.

That was the season he went up against some giant linemen from Harbor City Narbonne. He said it was one of the few times he felt real fear playing football, but he learned an important lesson from the experience.

“If you have the heart, you can do whatever,” he said. “I was able to excel. I never let anybody know I was nervous. I haven’t been since.”

Brock uses his quickness to blow past offensive tackles. He leads the team in sacks with 14.

Advertisement

Crenshaw (7-2, 4-0) is the defending City Section Division I champion facing a challenge from the Dons (9-0, 4-0).

“It’s going to be the funnest game and the most memorable game of my life,” Salimu said. “It’s one of those experiences that I can’t wait to get to.”

Added Brock: “I cry every Dorsey game.”

It will be up to the defensive stoppers to chase down Dorsey quarterback Joseph Gray, and how well they perform will probably determine which team wins.

Advertisement

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATSondheimer


Advertisement
Advertisement