Rivals Meet Again In City Semifinals
REVIVAL: Dorsey quarterback Joseph Gray has spearheaded the Dons' playoff run and will be a key factor in the Dons' rematch with Crenshaw Friday. Crenshaw won the first meeting 44-6 in one of the most dominating meetings in rivalry history - Jason Lewis for SentinelÂ Dorsey looking for different outcome in rematch with Crenshaw
A month ago, Dorsey head coach Paul Knox was almost befuddled as he tried to describe his team's performance after their 44-6 loss to Crenshaw.
Entering the game 7-1, they were overmatched as they were unable to slow down the Cougar offense or move on their defense, which held them to minus-44 yards of total offense.
"On our first eight plays, we made a mistake on all of them," Knox recalled.
That's why it's a surprise to see the Dons in the City Division I semifinals - their second trip in three years - preparing for another crack at their rival.
"It's not a surprise to us because every year we expect to win a title," Knox said. But those who saw them against Crenshaw couldn't have seen this coming.
About the only thing in that game went was senior Robert Herron scoring on a kickoff return right before halftime. It was an epic dismantling that left observers stunned and more determined of Crenshaw's dominance.
It also left Dorsey with a lot of questions and holes to address. After losing to Locke to end the season, they entered the playoffs reeling as the No. 12 seed.
But a funny thing happened. They regrouped to defeat San Pedro on the road 33-17 in their playoff opener. Then traveled to Taft, who was without their best player D.J. Morgan, and defeated them 24-22 last week.
Now here they are in their sixth City semifinal appearance since 2001.
"That Locke game woke our team up," Knox said. "We knew we our work cut out for us in the playoffs with the seed we had."
Two things have led to Dorsey's (9-3) resurgence. Senior quarterback Joseph Gray has found his form in the playoffs (25-for-47 for 435 yards and three touchdowns) and their defense playing much tougher.
Against San Pedro, they forced four turnovers and against Taft, they forced a late safety and stuffed the Toreadors on their final drive.
"[Gray] has done a great job for us making successful plays," Knox said, citing his experience as a factor. "And our defense had made big plays when they needed to."
It's an impressive run that resembles the team that marched to a 7-1 start before losing to Crenshaw and Locke to end the season.
But while Dorsey has improved, so has Crenshaw (12-0) who won their first two playoff games by a combined score of 97-6.
The Cougars, making their sixth straight trip to the City semifinals, have gotten a boost from the reemergence of junior tailback DeAnthony Thomas, who appears to be fully healed from an ankle sprain. And their defense has only gotten more intense, giving up only a late touchdown to Birmingham.
That doesn't bode well for a team that Crenshaw held to the second lowest total offensive total in state history, according to the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book. But Knox is confident his team is different this time around.
"We have to execute better from the start and not give them many chances," Knox said.
The last time both teams met in the playoffs, it was the 2005 City semifinals. Crenshaw beat Dorsey 20-13 and went on to win the City championship the following week.
Four years later, the stakes in "The Classic Part II" are similar. And Dorsey hopes their improvements are enough to pull off the biggest upset in recent City memory and reach their first City final since 2004.