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A crisis in the City Section: Crenshaw, Dorsey forced to cancel football openers

Crenshaw football coach Robert Garrett.
(Robert S. Helfman)

On the eve of the opening high school football games in the City Section, one of its traditional powers, four-time champion Crenshaw High, doesn’t have enough players to play a game.

Robert Garrett, Crenshaw’s head coach since 1988, said he has just 14 players in his program and the game scheduled for Friday against Westchester has been canceled.

“There’s no issue with clearance,” Garrett said Thursday. “There’s an issue with lack of participation.”

Garrett said enrollment at Crenshaw has fallen dramatically as charter schools have taken away students from Crenshaw’s feeder schools. In fact, there are charter high schools on the campuses of three junior highs that usually serve as feeder schools. A Los Angeles Unified School District spokesman said enrollment at Crenshaw is at 560 students, but it fluctuates during the school year.

“The gentrification is real and the stripping of the inner city is real,” he said. “People say, ‘Why aren’t you playing?’ Don’t ask me. ‘Lack of participation.’ How come no kids are at the school? I don’t know the solution, but the public needs to know this is what’s happening in the inner city.”

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Granada Hills Charter says it won’t allow fans into Friday’s football game against Arleta. That may mean Granada Hills won’t host playoff games.

Another traditional powerhouse, nearby Dorsey, also had to cancel its opening game on Friday against Fairfax. The Dons have enough players but coach Stafon Johnson said not enough have been cleared medically to participate because of a shortage of nurses in the school district to approve physicals.

Dorsey chose not to field a team last spring when sports were allowed to resume for L.A. Unified high schools after COVID-19 restrictions. The Dons haven’t played in a football game since 2019. Crenshaw did play two games last spring.

“I should not have played,” Garrett said. “I played in spring because we had 18, 19 kids and ended up playing with 15. All the kids played both ways.”

Garrett said he has been holding practices but “sometimes eight will come to practice. Tomorrow you may get 10. Another day it may be 14. “

Garrett said he has never seen such lack of participation “ever” during his days at Crenshaw dating back to 1984 and doesn’t know about the Cougars’ chances of playing this season.

The high school football season starts on Thursday. Here are the games scheduled for Week Zero.


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