A Look Back at 2009-10 and Saying Goodbye
The 2009-2010 season has come to a close and what a season it was.
When the football season began, all eyes were on Crenshaw and Lakewood - a game that many felt would determine the state playoff landscape with both teams returning nearly all of their key players from last season.
Crenshaw's narrow 28-27 victory had minds wondering but it wasn't until they defeated Norco the following week that people started to think that a state bowl game was in the cards.
Behind a stellar defense and an explosive offense, the Cougars went 14-0 en route to a City Championship and the Open Division State Bowl Game. People began wondering where this team ranked among the best in City history.
The dream may have ended with a 28-14 loss to Concord De La Salle in the state bowl game, but the journey gave the school a new team identity and brought the City Section much needed positive attention.
Rival Dorsey looked every bit of just another team that Crenshaw laid waste to in their first meeting. But after they reached the playoffs, they not only surprised San Pedro and Taft on the road, the Dons made Crenshaw work in their City semifinal game.
Beneath the radar, the city of Compton watched the rebirth of Centennial's football program - winning their first league championship in 30 years - and the return of Dominguez, who made a surprising run to the semifinals.
Centennial head coach Eric Scott deserves plenty of credit for turning around a team that went 1-9 the previous season and the return of the legendary Willie Donerson at Dominguez can only make people believe that the Dons will be back on track next season.
Moving to basketball, Westchester brought back nine seniors from its state championship team with the goal of repeating while Woodland Hills Taft was ready to stand in their way once again.
But the surprise of the year wasn't just a team but several players. Centennial's Deonte Burton stamped his mark on the season with big games against Crenshaw and Westchester while giving his school its biggest buzz in years.
Price's Allen Crabbe was one of the top returning players in what some thought was a weak class of California recruits. By season's end, the all-around scorer/rebounder with a high grade point average emerged as a preseason candidate for Pac-10 Freshman of the Year when he goes to Cal next fall.
Washington Prep made a surprising run to the City semifinals after upsetting Price late in the year and it's no surprise that I feel they'll be one of the top teams next year in the City.
But it's their girls' team that may get national attention next year with returning City Player of the Year Reshanda Gray, one of the top players in a star-studded crop of local talent.
Narbonne and Carson took their league rivalry to the City girls championship where Carson needed overtime to win the school's first City championship. And both will be in line to do it again next year.
Leuzinger won their first CIF title after falling short last year. But it was bittersweet as head coach Reggie Morris was forced out of the program, only to land at Playa Del Rey St. Bernard's to rebuild their program like he did in Lawndale.
Price endured one of the toughest schedules in the state to win another state title and it was sweet redemption for senior Richard Solomon, who lost in that same game last year with Bishop Montgomery.
But in the end, Westchester stood tall with another state title and the nine seniors led by City Player of the Year Dwayne Polee and All-City guards Jordin Mayes and Kareem Jamar etched their mark in program lore.
Crenshaw's DeAnthony Thomas blazed the track with City championships in the 100 and 200 meters but it was Dorsey whose speed and balance owned City overall.
And then there was Gardena Serra - a year for the ages that any school in the nation could wish to have.
They survived one of the greatest football games I've ever seen by defeating nemesis Westlake Village Oaks Christian to win their first CIF Southern Section title in 20 years. The following week, they defeated Marin Catholic for the Division state title.
In basketball, they overcame the death of guard Vaughn Autry's father to reach the Division III state championship, needed overtime to win the school's first since 1993.
And in track, they fell a mere two points shy of winning their third state title of the year, but not before Robert Woods, George Farmer and their mates burned up the track for Southern Section and state hardware.
What a season it was. So much to look back on and to look forward to next year.
This issue also ends my tenure as sports editor and with the Los Angeles Sentinel. It's been a pleasure giving you stories on the high school scene for the past 3 1/2 years and as editor for the past two years.
Thank you to all of the coaches, families, players and fans I've had the chance to meet and get to know. A special thanks also to former sports editor Ken Miller who gave me my break doing a story on Narbonne girls basketball.
Until next season or down the road, God Bless and as I've always done this time of year, congratulations to the graduating seniors and good luck at the next level.