It took a disastrous start to make many Dorsey football players realize how much work they had ahead of them.
After losing their opener to Las Vegas Eldorado and struggling to a 2-1-1 record since, the team's intensity has improved recently to the level that helped the Dons to an 11-1-1 record last year. That was evident Friday, as Dorsey defeated Crenshaw, 27-6, in a key Southern Pacific Conference game at Crenshaw.
The victory was the second in a row for the Dons, who improved to 2-0-1 in the conference. They host Carson this Friday in a game that should decide the conference title.
"There's no doubt about it, this was by far our best effort of the season " said Dorsey Coach Paul Knox. "We finally executed well from start to finish. We've been looking for that consistency."
Dorsey was an overwhelming favorite to win the 4-A title this year with a solid nucleus of returning players, including wide receiver Antonio Carrion, a preseason All-American. But when Knox had trouble filling the nonconference schedule, he agreed to opening the season in Las Vegas.
Eldorado, the defending Nevada champion, was up for Dorsey. The Dons got caught looking ahead and lost, 39-7.
"I think a lot of the younger guys just assumed we would win because we have done so in the past," Carrion said. "They were all doing too much talking."
A subsequent sloppy win over Fairfax and a tie with San Pedro left Knox wondering if his team would ever get on track.
Things started to turn around with a 28-18 victory over a respectable Washington team, and really picked up against Crenshaw.
The Cougars, who dropped to 2-2 in the conference, looked like a contender earlier this season after upsetting Wilmington Banning. They played Carson tough before losing, 14-6. But against the Dons, they struggled from start to finish.
The tone was set on Dorsey's first play from scrimmage, a 62-yard touchdown pass from Sultan Ali to Carrion.
"That was the straw the broke the camel's back," said Robert Garrett, Crenshaw's coach. "It takes a true champion to come back from an early setback like that, and our kids didn't seem to have any intensity today. They had a lot of breakdowns."
Carrion, who finished with three receptions for 105 yards, said the touchdown play was designed to let the Cougars know he was going to be a factor.
"We wanted to let them know I would be going deep, and I would be doing it from the first play," he said. "I think they knew I would get the ball, but they just weren't expecting it that quick."
Crenshaw came close to tying the game on its next possession but was stopped on the one-yard line on fourth down.
Dorsey responded by driving 99 yards, with Tino Davis scoring on an 11-yard touchdown run to give the Dons a 13-0 halftime lead.
The Cougars mounted their only other serious scoring threat early in the third quarter, moving for the Dorsey 45-yard line to the four. Quarterback Eric Scott fumbled on third-and-goal, but Saeed Akman picked the ball up and ran in for the touchdown.
From that point, it was all Dorsey. Junior running back Dante Spotville, who has played periodically this season, proved he belongs in the starting lineup by gaining 70 yards in the second half. His 13-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave the Dons a comfortable 19-6 lead.
Ali put the finishing touches on Crenshaw with a five-yard touchdown pass to Terry Murphy.