There were no helmets, the weight room was a mess and expectations couldn't have been lower when Derwin Henderson took over as football coach at Inglewood Morningside during the summer.
Equipment maker Ridell stepped up to donate $20,000 in equipment. And players responded to Henderson’s coaching to finish third in the Ocean League, defeat rival Inglewood for the first time since 2006 and earn a Western Division playoff berth on Friday against No. 2-seeded West Hills Chaminade.
“This is a better feeling going to the playoffs with this team than winning a City championship,” Henderson said, referring to the Division II title he won as coach at South East in 2011.
One player was homeless after both parents ended up in jail. Another player had a father paralyzed after a shooting, according to Henderson.
It puts into perspective the off-the-field challenges Morningside (6-4) has faced.
Chris Williams, a junior running back, has been having a terrific season. He has rushed for 1,404 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“He’s going to be a Pac-12 player,” Henderson said.
Morningside will be a heavy underdog to Chaminade, but just getting the opportunity to play the Eagles makes the Monarchs winners whatever happens on Friday night.