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Undefeated Crenshaw football team aims for first state title for a City Section school in 30 years.
Crenshaw High School's historic season will add more notch to its belt when it
takes the field at the Home Depot Center Saturday against Concord De La Salle at 8 p.m.
They'll be the first team from the Los Angeles City Section to compete in the CIF state football championships during its four year existence and they'll do it in the Open Division--the top bowl game regardless of division.
"It's a privilege knowing that nobody from L.A. Unified School District has done it before," senior linebacker Hayes Pullard said after the Cougars defeated Narbonne 34-14 last week to win their third City Championship.
It's been a goal all season for the Cougars (14-0). The state bowl was a dream that started a year ago and was forged during the spring and summer passing tournaments.
But more importantly, they'll finally get the chance to show a televised audience why they are the No. 1 ranked team in the state. The game will be seen on Fox Sports Net.
No City Section team has gone undefeated at this point since 1980 when Wilmington Banning went 12-0 in winning the City championship. They were also named mythical state champions.
For one of the last predominantly African-American schools in Los Angeles, this is what lies at stake Saturday night. A chance to make history and uplift a community and school district that has seen its share of negative press.
Last month, former Crenshaw football player Tyquan Knox was charged with murdering the mother of a woman who was expected to testify against him in a robbery case. The jury deadlocked on the murder charge but convicted of attempting to intimidating a witness.
And last week, LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines announced Fremont High School, which participates in the same athletic league as Crenshaw, will be shut down on June 30 and its entire staff dismissed with the option of reapplying for their positions.
This Crenshaw squad has been a beacon of good news--players who have known each other since playing in Pop Warner leagues when there were younger. Several, such as junior tailback DeAnthony Thomas and senior wide receiver Geno Hall, earned their stripes in the Snoop Dogg Youth Football League.
"I've never been around a greater group of kids in all my days," Crenshaw head coach Robert Garrett said. In his 21st year at the helm, Garrett had previously led the school to a City championship in 2005 along with a lower division title in 1991.
Luther Waters, the assistant principal in charge of athletics and a Crenshaw alumnus, echoed that, saying that the team is made up of model citizens who take as much pride in their academics as they do in game preparation.
"I've been around Crenshaw since the mid-1990's and I've never seen a group like this," Waters said.
He's received calls from alumni of other city schools--including longtime rival Dorsey, Locke, Manual Arts--and the community support he said has been overwhelming.
"We're always in a mode of competing but now, we're coming to support something better--a team representing the Greater Los Angeles area." Waters added.
The school's basketball program has eight state titles to its name--all earned under the legendary Willie West. Now they have the chance to one in football against one the nation's premier football programs.
Despite no longer owning the nation's longest winning streak--151 games from 1992-2003--De La Salle (12-1) are still the team that all of Southern California measures itself against. A football factory that has produced several NFL players, including current Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
It's a meeting that could've taken place in 2005. In a mock selection by the CIF commissioners the year before the games were introduced, Crenshaw was selected to face De La Salle.
Four years later, the two will finally meet. And all of the eyes of Los Angeles will be on the Crenshaw football team as they chase perfection and a state title.
"This is something the kids will remember for the rest of their lives," Waters said.
CRENSHAW FOOTBALL TEAM NEEDS COMMUNITY SUPPORT
The Crenshaw High School football team will play in the CIF Open Division State Bowl Championship on Saturday but needs the community's support to ensure that their families and others will be there.
The school athletic department is raising funds to pay the $15 individual ticket prices in hopes of not just allowing families to go, but students at Crenshaw, Audubon Middle School and other community organizations.
"We'd love to drop off tickets for a local Boys & Girls club or reward high achieving students but we need someone to purchase the tickets," said Luther Waters, assistant principal in charge of athletics.
It is the first time that a school from the L.A. Unified School District will participate in the CIF state bowl games and Crenshaw wants to ensure they have maximum support from as many as possible.
Those interested can purchase the tickets at the school, located at 5010 10th Ave. in Los Angeles, and go to the front office anytime between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. . They can also reach Waters as his school office (323) 290-7809 or his cell phone (323) 712-4277.