Jefferson wins first high school football game at Coliseum since 2016

The flame was lighted at the Coliseum on Thursday during a return to high school football.
The flame was lighted at the Coliseum on Thursday during a return to high school football. Jefferson defeated Manual Arts 40-14.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

As the Jefferson High football team walked from the historic tunnel of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Thursday afternoon and panned toward the peristyle end to see the pristine grass field, the unlighted Olympic torch and 78,000 red seats that were mostly empty, first-year coach Jason Grant unexpectedly ordered everyone to return to the locker room.

He didn’t care about interrupting the moment. He saw uniforms that weren’t tucked in. He saw players who weren’t walking side by side. He saw an attitude that wasn’t focused on playing an important high school football game. A top assistant at Crenshaw for 10 years under coach Robert Garrett, Grant saw a teachable moment.

The next time the Democrats came out of the locker room, they were ready. From the opening kickoff until the final play, they were the best team during a historic return to high school football in the Coliseum. They defeated Manual Arts 40-14 to improve to 3-0 in the Exposition League and moved closer toward winning the league title.

Coliseum officials invited Jefferson and Manual Arts, followed by La Cañada and Pasadena Poly, to play at the Coliseum in a doubleheader. High school teams hadn’t played there since 2016 when Crenshaw played Dorsey and San Pedro faced Banning. This was a test to see if more games can be played at the Coliseum, where there once was a crowd of 41,000 for the Southern Section championship game in 1956. The Shrine Game, featuring college all-stars, at the Coliseum in 1957 attracted a crowd of 85,931.

The City Section used to hold its championship games at the Coliseum until costs became too high. The Coliseum is now run by USC and talks are expected in the coming weeks to see about scheduling games in 2022 that don’t conflict with USC home games. The Coliseum’s general manager, Joe Furin, is hoping to make it happen because the Coliseum will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2023 and knows that high school events are part of its great legacy.

Jefferson opened a 21-0 halftime lead. James Farmer scored, catching a short pass and running untouched 76 yards into the end zone. Norman Mason, in his first game of the season after becoming eligible, caught a 53-yard touchdown pass.

Players were thankful to have the chance to play at the Coliseum. USC did its best to make it a special day, lighting the Olympic torch early in the game. A small group of fans watched from the press box side. Even the officials were elated to work the game.

Jefferson football players gather in the tunnel at the Coliseum before their game against Manual Arts.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

“I’ve come here to watch the Rams and Raiders,” said official Kevin Morris. “Now to be officiating here is pretty exciting.”

In the final game, Pasadena Poly defeated La Cañada 34-24.