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Wind-Thrill Factor

Dorsey has speed to burn, and football opponents feel the heat as Dons race to 6-0 start.

October 18, 2003|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

Coach Paul Knox says his Los Angeles Dorsey football team can run like the wind.

A well-worn analogy. And also, opposing coaches say, very close to the truth.

Just as long as Knox means a wind of gale force.

In a Coliseum League opener Friday night at Rancho Cienega Park, Jefferson became the latest team to get swept away. Dorsey, ranked 17th in the Southland by The Times, improved its record to 6-0 with a 34-21 victory.

"They're a great team, an excellent team, the best team we've played all year," said Jefferson Coach Doi Johnson, whose 2-4 team also lost to undefeated Gardena.

Despite its record, Jefferson showed some skill and speed of its own Friday. The Democrats just didn't have the depth.

More than half of Dorsey's starting players have run 40 yards in 4.6 seconds or better and several have been clocked at 11.4 seconds or better for 100 meters.

"It's the one thing you can't coach," Knox said. "It makes it hard on a team, because when we do everything right nobody can catch us. When you make a mistake, you can cover it up."

Dorsey made several mistakes against Jefferson, including two passes by quarterback Donald Prince that were intercepted, the second of which led to a touchdown that gave Jefferson a 21-20 lead after three quarters.

But Dorsey's speed helped it take control thereafter. Stafon Johnson ran for 106 of his 137 yards in the fourth quarter, including a 37-yard gain that set up the Dons' final score.

While Dorsey's offense struggled early, the Don defense came up with big plays. Linebacker Joey Rucks made two second-quarter interceptions, returning one 50 yards for a touchdown that gave Dorsey a 20-14 halftime lead.

After a 13-yard run by Jeremiah Johnson put the Dons up, 28-21, early in the fourth quarter, Rucks recovered a fumble, setting up Dorsey's final score.

The Dons are one of only three 6-0 football teams -- Gardena and Venice are the others -- in the City Section. And few would argue that they might also be undefeated in track and field.

Dorsey has at least 15 players -- Knox has lost count -- who run track in the spring. And they aren't just ordinary track athletes.

Receiver David Gettis was state champion in the 400 meters last year as a sophomore; defensive end Courtney Williams won freshman-sophomore City Section titles in the 200 and 400, and Stafon Johnson was second in the frosh-soph City 100.

Jeremiah Johnson, who came into Friday's game averaging 9.5 yards per carry, ran a 10.8 in the 100 last year.

Receiver Phillip Perry, who averages about 20 yards per catch, is another track athlete. So is defensive back Jerome Boyd, who intercepted a pass against Los Angeles High at the Dorsey 10, outran everybody for 90 yards and scored a touchdown.

And then there are defensive backs Chris Walker and Marquise Charles, who say that they, not the decorated track standouts, are fastest on the team.

"Everyone out here likes to think they are the fastest guy on the team," Walker said. "It's a pride thing. It all depends on the day, but the bottom line is we have speed all over the place, even our defensive ends. There is no team out there that can beat our speed."

Or if they can, they haven't. The Dorsey secondary had not allowed a passing touchdown until Jefferson scored on an 18-yard play in the first quarter Friday. The Don defense has allowed only 52 points in six games.

Dorsey's defenders are both fast and quick. Williams leads the team with nine sacks and, at the opposite end of the line, Jasper Henry, a highly-sought Division I prospect, has eight. Henry, 6 feet 4 and 260 pounds, was the City's shotput champion last year and runs the 100 in 11.3.

"Everybody swarms to the ball," Henry said. "When you get that first step on your man, you can see what he's trying to do and then beat him to it. We're able to do different things because of our speed. We get to the quarterback fast so he doesn't have time to make a good throw."

Gettis, Jeremiah Johnson, Williams and Charles are juniors. Stafon Johnson is a sophomore.

Knox saw all the speed he had coming up last season and decided to change the offense this year, from Dorsey's traditional wing-T to a spread I formation.

"We tinkered with it last year," Knox said, "because we knew the type of team we had coming back."

Dorsey's success begins with speed, but it doesn't end there. There is also Dorsey Don Pride, or DDP.

Several times a year, the players hold meetings among themselves to discuss what it means to play football at Dorsey and why it's important to have a sense of pride.

The tradition began during the 1989 season at a time when Dorsey was down. Standout receiver Kevin Copeland had died from a heart attack. The school's reputation had been smeared by a series of gang-related incidents. The football team set out to change the mood and started DDP meetings.

"It was something we needed to get over the hump," said Spencer Wray, a member of the '89 team. "There was so much negative going on, we wanted to give something positive."

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