Once a Youth Football Mecca, L.A. Now Struggles to Find Kids Who’ll Play

He latched onto Dorsey as an assistant in 2014 and was promoted to head coach in 2019. The Dons won only three games the season before and interest in football at the school was consistently dwindling, Johnson said. Then, three months after he was hired, the coronavirus pandemic struck, and the California Interscholastic Federation, the state’s regulatory body for high school sports, eventually canceled the championships for fall sports.

As conditions improved, the state adopted a shortened football season for spring 2021, but Dorsey opted out. Johnson Johnson said the short timeline would have made it difficult to cobble together a team and adequately train, which also could have led to injuries. also could have led to injuries.

“I feel like I wasn’t able to put my print on these kids,” Johnson, 34, said. “If I were to rush it in and get this started then, it would have gotten out of whack.”

At the July team meeting, Johnson and the athletes knew they needed to recruit. Javaun Lewis, a freshman running back, was particularly worried about the slim corps of offensive lineman. He and other players reached out to friends in their immediate circle and others who they felt could be swayed. But he did not beg.

I just really focused on being myself,” Lewis said of his recruiting pitch. “I didn’t have too much time to chase after people.

The roster swelled as the school year inched closer, but Dorsey could not play in the season’s first game because the school did not have enough nurses to handle players’ physical exams and conduct Covid rtesting. After that hiccup, the Dons completed the season. The play at times was sloppy — against Crenshaw high, Dorsey’s main rival, the teams fumbled a combined eight times — but the Dons finished with a 10-3 record.

“It should only go up from here,” Lewis, 15, said. “From where we began until now, that was a strong start.”

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