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Banning Battles, but Falls to Dorsey

Prep football: Defending City champion can't hold second-half lead and loses, 34-22, three days after lineman's death.

November 16, 2001|GARY KLEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With thoughts of a fallen teammate on their minds, Wilmington Banning High's football players gave a valiant effort in a 34-22 loss to Dorsey in the first round of the City Section playoffs Thursday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

The defending-champion Pilots were trying to win for Jonathan Diaz, a 17-year-old senior offensive lineman who collapsed at practice Monday and died after arriving at the hospital by ambulance in full cardiac arrest.

Banning led, 15-12, at halftime and 22-12 midway through the third quarter, but could not hold off a determined Dorsey team that got 208 yards and three touchdowns from senior running back Jermaine Moore.

Dorsey pulled within 22-20 on a 19-yard touchdown run by Moore with 2 minutes 42 seconds left in the third quarter and took the lead on a five-yard touchdown pass from Theron Shakir to tight end Jerome Johnson with 6:30 left.

Dorsey (7-3) will play Westchester, a 41-10 winner over Chatsworth Thursday night, in a quarterfinal on Wednesday.

"We played tough and the kids gave everything they had," Banning Coach Ed Lalau said. "Tonight just wasn't our night."

Diaz was the second high school football player in the Southland to die this season. Matt Colby, a senior defensive end for Costa Mesa, collapsed on the sideline during a game against Huntington Beach Ocean View on Sept. 28 and never regained consciousness. The cause of his death is pending.

Dorsey Coach Paul Knox was not surprised by Banning's spirited play on Thursday night. Early in the 1989 season, Dorsey's star receiver, Kevin Copeland, died after collapsing on the field in a game against San Pedro. It was later discovered that Copeland had a congenital heart condition. Dorsey, inspired by Copeland's memory, won all but one of its remaining games en route to its first City championship.

"Having gone through the same situation, I knew they were going to come out with a lot of emotion," Knox said. "They played well tonight. They represented themselves well."

Knox and other coaches in the Southland who have dealt with a player's death recall being uncertain about how to proceed. Stick with the routine or go with the flow?

"As a coach, you prepare for a lot of different situations, but I have never been to a clinic where they talked about something like how to handle a player's death," Gardena Coach Marshall Jones said.

Said Roosevelt's Jose Casagran: "There is no blueprint for this. You just let your feelings be your guide."

The day after Copeland's death in 1989, Knox met with his players and asked if they wanted to continue the season. They voted to forge ahead and worked practice around Copeland's funeral and visits with the family.

Dorsey defeated Washington in its next game and rode the emotion to an eventual victory over Carson in the City final.

"I had not had to deal with the death of any family members or friends," Knox said. "You learn, and the players learn, how to cope and how to persevere and keep going--and at the same time feel personal loss."

Gardena's players and coaches were similarly challenged when quarterback Jeffrey Gardner, 16, was killed on Jan. 18, 1999, after being shot while sitting in a car with friends in Lennox.

"We could take some time and grieve for awhile before going back to doing things like lifting weights," Jones said.

Roosevelt players and coaches were in mourning last December when junior lineman Steve Delgado died six days before Roosevelt was scheduled to play Gardena in the City Section Invitational championship game at the Coliseum. Delgado was shot accidentally when he was caught in a gunfight outside a restaurant in East Los Angeles.

Roosevelt players, at the urging of Delgado's mother, decided to play the game.

Roosevelt received the opening kickoff and drove for a touchdown in the first 53 seconds. That, however, was Roosevelt's only burst in a 31-7 defeat.

"You have the emotional hurricane going on," Casagran said. "When it was finally over, I felt relieved."

Carson Coach John Aguirre tried to use the aftermath of a player's death last year as a learning tool for his team. Dominick Batiste, an 18-year-old cornerback who had transferred from Gardena, was killed Sept. 30 when a car he was riding in with three teammates came under gunfire in Carson a few hours after the Colts' victory over Fontana Miller.

"There are going to be deaths, with friends and loved ones--it's life, and those people will always be with you in some way," said Aguirre, whose team beat Locke the following week and later advanced to the City final. "It's an opportunity to teach kids how to handle adversity and stressful situations and overcome them."

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