- By Jason Dougas Lewis
- In High School
Sports writers comparing this millennium's best two high school Los Angeles City Section football teams.
De’Anthony Thomas (Oregon) went on to be the best player in the nation in 2010, and he was one of the key players for Crenshaw’s 2009 team. Crenshaw won the City title both of those years. Photo by Jason Lewis
Narbonne has a loaded team, and with Troy Williams (committed to Washington) standing in the pocket, they have been unbeatable over the last 19 games, which accounts for two City championships. Photo by Jason Lewis
Article originally published by the Los Angeles Sentinel. www.lasentinel.net
Sentinel Sports Editor (2006-2010), Daily Breeze
“2009 Crenshaw, their strength was a combination of great running and great defense. I remember seeing the Crenshaw/Dorsey game. Their first game, Crenshaw held Dorsey to negative yards for the whole game, and that was an incredible statement. Their defense was their strength, and then they had the two-headed running back of Geoffrey Norwood (Utah) and De'Anthony Thomas (Oregon). It made them a whole lot better because they didn't have to just rely on De'Anthony, teams had to account for Norwood as well.
With Geno Hall playing wide receiver, he was incredible during the preseason. He was their best player during the preseason. Their running, using Geno and De'Anthony as receivers, as their great defense.
Narbonne from what I've seen, they're really fast on offense. Their quarterback (Troy Williams, committed to Washington) is the best quarterback that I've seen while covering high school football in the City.
You look at Narbonne's defense, which is just lights out, bigger, big guys, physical guys who just want to hit you and keep coming at you. Their front seven and their quarterback are their strengths, where as Crenshaw's is their defense and their ground game.
If the two teams would play each other, that's tough to say, because as good as Narbonne's passing game is, Crenshaw had a very good secondary. I want to say that Norwood led the City in interceptions. So passing the ball on Crenshaw would be very difficult. But then again, Narbonne has a very physical wide receiver in A.J. Richardson (committed to Cal). I hate to say it, because I love that Crenshaw team, but I would give a slight edge to Narbonne because we know what happened to Crenshaw in the State game against De La Salle when they lost De'Anthony. They had trouble moving the football down the field with the passing game. Narbonne doesn't have that problem. I think that Crenshaw would defiantly give Narbonne fits with their defense. But I would say Narbonne by a hair, only because of their quarterback. With a quarterback that good, that's what I would say.”
Geno Hall was the City Section Player of the Year in 2009. When he had the ball in his hands, defensive players were stumbling all over the place, including Narbonne in the 2009 City Section championship game. Photo by Jason Lewis
Hayes Pullard (USC) was a dominant linebacker, and probably the toughest guy on the team. When needed to, he produced on offense as well. Photo by Jason Lewis
Contributing Sports Writer
“I personally feel that Crenshaw's '10 team was better than the '09 team. They were faster and they hit harder. But I understand, the '09 team went to State. In respect to the '09 team, they were super talented. Of course they had Geno Hall. De'Anthony was actually in Geno's shadow. And they had Hayes Pullard (USC) and Marquis Thompson (UNLV) at quarterback.
In comparison to Narbonne's 2012 team, Crenshaw's '09 team had a better defense, and they were faster.
This Narbonne team has an excellent quarterback (Troy Williams), excellent receivers. The 2012 Narbonne team is bigger than Crenshaw's '09 team. Narbonne couldn't match them with speed, but they could match them with talent.
Narbonne's team did basically what Troy Williams needed them to do. And Troy was an excellent leader. That's what Crenshaw didn't have in '09. They had Hayes Pullard, they had De'Anthony Thomas, they had Marcus Martin (USC), Devonte Smith, Marquis Thompson, they had a lot of kids, a lot of talent, a lot of skills, but they didn't have what Narbonne has in Troy Williams, who knew how to rally his troops and do what they needed to do.
I think if Crenshaw's '09 team played Narbonne's 2012 team, Narbonne loses because the De'Anthony factor is too much, and De'Anthony is on both sides of the ball. A lot of those passes Narbonne completes, they don't complete them with De'Anthony playing safety. A lot of those runs that Narbonne's defense stops, they don't stop with the ball in De'Anthony's hands. Not to mention the fact that you had Geno Hall. Geno was a versatile athlete that could do as much as De'Anthony with just a little less speed.”
Both teams had great defenses. Narbonne had more size, but Crenshaw had more speed. Both defenses hit extremely hard. One advantage that Narbonne had was that they were so deep that they did not have to play their athletes both ways. Photo by Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor (2010-2013)
“That '09 Crenshaw team...they were the bullies on the block. They did what they wanted to do. They took what they wanted to take. They seemed to know that they were great, and they played like they were great. But they did not take anybody lightly, and they performed every Friday night. If they needed to gut out a win, they did it. If they were 50 points better than an opponent, they won by 50 points.
Defensively they were a rough group that hit extremely hard. I can remember seeing them swarm to the ball carrier, and it just looked like they had bad intentions for him. They had a defense that offensively, you just didn’t want to play against them.
Offensively, they pounded the ball with a few tough running backs, then they had De'Anthony Thomas running right by defenders. And their best offensive player that year, wide receiver Geno Hall, was nearly unstoppable. The kid wasn't big, he wasn't tall, but it didn't seem to matter how many defenders were around him, he made the catch all the time. It was just amazing to watch that kid's grit.
That Crenshaw team had star power with Thomas, Hall, and Hayes Pullard. And that team had a certain confidence that was unbeatable. Crenshaw scheduled some really tough non-league games, which had a number of people wondering what they were doing, and they ran the table. After going 5-0, they entered league play and demolished every City Section opponent on their way to the championship. Not one game was close.
A defining moment that I remember was against Dorsey. With Crenshaw up by a lot of points, after stopping Dorsey, like they did all night, Pullard was laughing at Dorsey players as he was telling them to get off the field. Nobody does that to Dorsey. But Crenshaw did, and none of them seemed to want to mess with Pullard. He was the toughest guy among a bunch of tough guys.
The 2012 Narbonne team, they are just as good as Crenshaw's '09 team. They do not have the star power that Crenshaw had, but Narbonne seems like a college team, in that they have everything that a team on the next level has.
Narbonne has the stud quarterback in Troy Williams, they have a college style offense where they spread the defense and run the no-huddle offense. Defensively they are big in the right areas, and they are fast in the right areas. And one big advantage that they have over Crenshaw's '09 team and most high school teams, for the most part they do not play their athletes both ways. Just like a college program, offensive players play offense, and defensive players play defense.
Looking at the '09 Crenshaw team, that played the bulk of their best players both ways, so if a player was hurt on offense, that affected the defense. When Thomas was hurt in the State Bowl game, Crenshaw not only lost a stud player on offense, but also a stud player on defense. Narbonne does not have that problem. An injury on one side of the ball does not affect the other side of the ball.
Narbonne having a quarterback like Williams, that would be hard for Crenshaw to overcome. That one position can be the biggest difference maker, and Narbonne was extremely strong there, where Crenshaw was decent.
Both teams played tough non-league schedules against some of the best Southern Section schools. A slight edge would go to Narbonne, who blew out Long Beach Poly 56-0, which nobody does, convincingly defeated Serra, and ended up beating three Southern Section teams that eventually won division titles. That's huge. Poly and Serra are playing for the State Bowl, and they did not stand a chance against Narbonne.
If these two teams faced each other, Narbonne is the appealing pick because of their depth and Williams at quarterback, but there was just something about that Crenshaw team. They had the stars, and they were just a tough bunch. I'd take Crenshaw in a very close game. But because Crenshaw played their stars both ways, one key injury and Narbonne beats them.”
This pretty much sums up how close Crenshaw was to winning the State Bowl in 2009. The ran the table until the very end, but they came up just a little short against De La Salle. If Narbonne can win the State Bowl, then the nod in this debate will have to go to them out of respect. Photo by Jason Lewis
2009 Crenshaw schedule
Crenshaw 28, Lakewood 27
Crenshaw 47, Norco 44
Crenshaw 59, Miller 12
Crenshaw 41, JW North 21
Crenshaw 48, Culver City 7
Crenshaw 68, Manual Arts 0
Crenshaw 62, Fremont 0
Crenshaw 76, Locke 14
Crenshaw 44, Dorsey 7
Crenshaw 46, Jefferson 0
Crenshaw 42, Birmingham 6
Crenshaw 55, Westchester 0
Crenshaw 35, Dorsey 6
Crenshaw 34, Narbonne 14 (City Championship Game)
De La Salle 28, Crenshaw 14 (State Bowl)
2012 Narbonne schedule
Narbonne 41, Palos Verdes 0
Narbonne 56, Long Beach Poly 0
Narbonne 61, Lakewood 6
Narbonne 22, Serra 9
Narbonne 18, Mater Dei 17
Narbonne 26, Carson 20
Narbonne 54, Banning 7
Narbonne 28, San Pedro 7
Narbonne 63, Washing Prep 3
Narbonne 53, Gardena 7
Narbonne 57, Locke 14
Narbonne 45, Garfield 0
Narbonne 39, Carson 12
Narbonne 25, Crenshaw 0 (City Championship Game)
State Bowl Regionals- ????
State Bowl- ????