Prep Rally: Crenshaw vs. Dorsey could reinvigorate one of the city’s most famous rivalries

Raleek Brown of Mater Dei rushed for 163 yards in win over Servite.
(Dylan Stewart 1550)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. It’s the final week of the regular season in high school football with two big rivalry games in the City Section: Dorsey at Crenshaw and Garfield vs. Roosevelt at East Los Angeles College.

Trying to stay relevant

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

Dorsey and Crenshaw, two proud, successful football programs in the City Section, are trying to stay relevant in the face of continuing obstacles on and off the field. They will face off on Friday at Crenshaw to decide the Coliseum League championship.


It was the annual event everyone in the South Los Angeles community knew about. Dorsey vs. Crenshaw. A rivalry of family — a “turkey bowl,” as Stafon Johnson put it.

The memories from Johnson’s playing career when he was a standout running back at Dorsey, are still fresh. He can still see blocked-off Crenshaw Blvd., the police escorts. He can still feel the calm of his sophomore year, the first time playing under lights at Crenshaw. Johnson played in national championships and Rose Bowls while at USC, yet no game could ever truly compare.

The last two years, those memories are flickering like a flame in the wind, trying to avoid the gusts that just keep coming strong. The community has changed. COVID-19 decimated the programs. Every day brings a new challenge.

Yet here they are today, sitting with undefeated records at the top of the Coliseum League, ready for a championship showdown Friday that some feel could reinvigorate one of the city’s most famous rivalries.

Here’s a profile of how the teams are trying to navigate these uncertain times.

Mater Dei vs. Servite lives up to hype

Servite receiver Tetairoa McMillan had 15 receptions against Mater Dei.
(Dylan Stewart 1550)

No. 1 Santa Ana Mater Dei defeated No. 2 Servite 46-37 before more than 9,000 fans at Santa Ana Stadium on Saturday night. It was an unforgettable game that featured great players and great moments. The score was tied at 10, tied at 17, tied at 24, tied at 31.


It left little doubt that Servite this season has joined the Monarchs and St. John Bosco among the elite teams in Southern California.

Here’s my column about the game from the perspective it will be remembered for years to come.

Recruiters missed on Mason Graham

Servite's Mason Graham has 10 sacks.

When Mason Graham, who is 6 feet 4 and 295 pounds, begins to move menacingly toward a quarterback, he resembles one of those old steam-powered locomotives picking up speed. Any obstacle in the way will get crushed and there won’t be a loud whistle providing a warning of an impending collision.

With 10 sacks for Anaheim Servite, Graham has proven himself to be the best two-way lineman in California.

He’s going to become the latest top high school prospect to leave California for college when he enrolls at Michigan in January.

There’s no one to blame but the recruiters themselves.

Every recruiter that came to talk to coach Troy Thomas got the same message.

“Dude, he’s a player,” Thomas told them.

Graham was a two-time Trinity League wrestling champion at heavyweight. But only a few Mountain West schools wanted him for football, so he committed to Boise State in July because the Broncos did their homework and recognized his potential. Then Michigan got involved and he committed. Then Oregon and USC made scholarship offers. It was too late.

Here’s the profile on Graham.

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Coliseum hosting high school games

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
USC officials unveiled the $315 million renovation of the United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum ion Aug. 15, 2019.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Joe Furin, the general manager of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, has been directed to find a way to return high school sporting events to the historic 98-year-old venue now run by USC.

On Thursday, there was a “pilot program” with a high school football doubleheader at the Coliseum. Manual Arts played Jefferson and Pasadena Poly played La Cañada. All four schools are contributing financially to make the games possible.

And that has been the big recent roadblock. The City Section used to play its championship football games in the Coliseum, the last held in 2014 when Narbonne defeated Carson. After that, the City Section switched to holding finals at junior colleges or high school venues because it supposedly cost too much to rent the facility.

Now Coliseum officials are looking for ways to help host high school events and allow athletes to experience a once-in-a-lifetime experience of getting to run out from the Coliseum tunnel and play on the stadium’s pristine grass field, as so many great athletes from the past have done.

Furin said there’s a long legacy of the Coliseum hosting high school competitions from football to track, and he has been encouraged to find solutions.

“Dynamics have changed,” he said. “High schools have limited budgets. The Coliseum isn’t an easy place to open up and host an event. The overall desire from the Los Angeles Coliseum president is, ‘How can we get high school football back?’ This is a pilot program to figure out annually a way.”

Jefferson wins at Coliseum

The flame was lit 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.

Here’s the report.

Football rewind

Franklin wide receiver Hector Ceballos can't quite haul in a pass against a pair of Lincoln defenders.
(Luis Sinco)

Los Angeles Lincoln improved to 9-0 and won the Northern League championship with a 52-34 win over Franklin. Running back Andre Watkins rushed for 183 yards and scored four touchdowns. Here’s the link to a report on the game and news that Lincoln has accumulated $4 million in funding for a new all-weather turf field.

Trey Kulak of Capistrano Valley set an Orange County passing record with 615 yards passing against Trabuco Hills.

Here’s a story about the rivalry game between Edison and Fountain Valley.

After two years of waiting, Hueneme finally played its first home night game.

Here’s the link for the final week schedule of the regular season.

Top 25 rankings

A look at The Times’ top 25 high school football teams in the Southland:

Rk. SCHOOL (W-L); Last week; Next game (last rank)

1. MATER DEI (7-0); def. Servite, 46-37; vs. JSerra (at Santa Ana Stadium), Friday (1)

2. SERVITE (8-1); lost to Mater Dei, 46-37; at St. John Bosco, Friday (2)

3. ST. JOHN BOSCO (8-1); def. Santa Margarita, 41-16; vs. Servite, Friday (3)

4. CORONA CENTENNIAL (9-0); def. Eastvale Roosevelt, 64-0; at Corona, Thursday (4)

5. MISSION VIEJO (8-1); def. San Juan Hills, 42-22; vs. San Clemente, Friday (5)

6. LOS ALAMITOS (8-1); def. Huntington Beach, 49-14; vs. Newport Harbor (at Westminster), Friday (7)

Here’s the link to the rest of the rankings.

Bus drivers shortage

There’s a shortage of bus drivers, and now that’s having an effect on sporting events.

The Los Angeles Unified School District informed schools last week that games can’t start after 4 p.m. because of a drivers shortage. Schools have the option of hiring charter buses or using private transportation.

Here’s the rundown.

Girls’ volleyball

The Southern Section girls’ volleyball playoffs resume with the quarterfinals this week. Top-seeded Marymount plays its first match in the Division 1 playoffs, hosting Harvard-Westlake on Wednesday night.

Here’s the link to complete Southern Section pairings.

Here’s the link to City Section girls’ volleyball pairings. Venice is seeded No. 1 in the Open Division.


Great Oak won the boys’ Division 1/2 sweepstakes race at the Mt. SAC cross-country invitational. Loyola took second. Mira Costa won the girls’ team competition with Anaheim Canyon finishing second.

Chris Cole of Claremont won the boys’ individual race, covering three miles in 14:56. Richard Moreno of Loyola was second in 15:11.

In the girls’ race, Dalia Frias of Mira Costa ran away from the field with a time of 16:42. Kelli Gaffney of Great Oak was second in 17:22.

Notes . . .

Junior third baseman Casey Borba from Orange Lutheran has committed to Texas. . . .

Sophomore outfielder Logan de Groot, who was the top junior varsity hitter at Santa Margarita as a freshman, has committed to UCLA. He’s the 12th baseball player at Santa Margarita to make a college commitment. . . .

Pitcher David Ladjevic of Servite has committed to Long Beach State. . . .

Junior pitcher Andrew Grove of Villa Park has committed to UC Irvine. . . .

Infielder TJ Whiteman from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame has committed to Morehouse College. . . .

Junior guard Skye Belker of Windward has committed to Princeton for women’s basketball. . . .

Norco quarterback Kyle Crum has committed to San Diego State. . . .

Junior Alex Adishian of Harvard-Westlake has committed to Cal for women’s beach volleyball. . . .

Cajon hurdler/jumper Seth Johnson has committed to Cal. . . .

Cross country/track performer Anna Terrell of Palos Verdes has committed to Washington. . . .

Cross country/track performer Sofia Abrego of Granada Hills has committed to Dartmouth.

From the archives: Richard Irvin

Transfers have been part of the high school sports scene for decades. Richard Irvin’s name came up in 2002.

He was a top student and top quarterback at Harvard-Westlake. He decided to transfer to Pasadena Muir at a time when moving for sports reasons was supposedly not allowed. Irvin wanted to play college football and decided he had a better chance at Muir.

So he left. Here’s a story from 2002 that brings back memories of the transfer games being played.

Irvin would go on to play quarterback at Tulane and Harvard.

He has used all his playing days experiences and intelligence to become an agent representing NFL players for the Wasserman Media Group.


From the Washington Post, the story on the journey of a high school soccer player going from Senegal to America.

From the San Jose Mercury News, the story of a quarterback who has led Los Gatos to an 8-0 record.

Tweets you might have missed

Until next time...

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