Donerson's return spearheads Dominguez's surprising run
BIG DAY:Â Dominguez junior Devonte Carter had five touchdowns against Redondo and he'll split carries with Will Gregory as the Dons take on Mission Hills Alemany on Friday in their CIF semifinal.
Dominguez coach Willie Donerson has seen a lot in his 24 years at the helm but this year might stick with him for a while.
After starting the season 1-5, he has the Dons on a five-game winning streak and in the CIF Western Division semifinals Friday against Mission Hills Alemany. But to understand how they got there, you have to go back to last year.
The Dons started the 2008 season 0-6 under former coach Cornell Ward. Ward was let go because he wasn't able to attend practices and the school rehired Donerson, who they had let go before the season started.
"We won two of our next four games," Donerson said, "And then we stayed together all year, starting February."
The team (6-5) forged an identity during the spring and summer. But losing 20 players to graduation and having only eight seniors caught up to them and it led to their slow start
That's when the team switched things up. They abandoned their double Wing-T offense as their primary attack and went to a spread offense. It led to a three-game winning streak to end the season and sneak in the playoffs.
What happened next, nobody could predict. A 64-27 win over No.2 seed Culver City followed by a 48-21 win over Redondo.
"I didn't expect the scores to be so high," Donerson said. Their previous season high had been 34 points in a win against Paramount.
Against Culver City, they studied how Crenshaw had beaten them in October with an aggressive defense. It played to a longtime strength of Dons' teams in the past.
"We've always been able to go all out at people," he said. "Lot of teams are not used to it."
They also picked the right time for their two best offensive outputs of the year. Switching back to the wing-T, senior tailback Will Gregory had six touchdowns against Culver City and junior Devonte Carter had five against Redondo.
"Carter had never started all year and we had no idea he had that many touchdowns until after the game," Donerson said. "Gregory (1,500 yards and 22 touchdowns this season) has been there all year for us."
It's a two-headed attack that the Dons will carry on Friday against Alemany, who is led by Oregon State-bound tailback Malcolm Marable.
"We know how good they are," said Donerson, "But we'll show up and play consistently."
He recalled how his team didn't get down on themselves after their start to the season. They approached every game the same way and as the season wore on, all they focused on was each opponent, not their record.
"Nothing bothers them, they just come out and play. I've never had a group like this," he said.
While they may be underdogs Friday, their success has brought back memories of when the Dons won back-to-back division championships in 2005 and 2006. And it's invigorated an athletic program that has needed some good news.
In the past year and a half, former basketball coach Russell Otis was fired and convicted of a misdemeanor sex charge, the football team endured its worst year in over 25 years and players have transferred to other schools.
But now, the football team has helped bring some of the support back. And despite a new administration at the helm, it's as if last year was an aberration.
Friday night will bring them one step closer to restoring a program once ranked among the best in the Southland.