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New field will give Cathedral a fresh start

After a $4-million stadium makeover, the high school has a showcase for its program and highly regarded receiver Randall Carroll.

September 27, 2008|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Randall Carroll vividly remembers what it tasted like when he first began practicing and playing games on the football field of Cathedral High's downtown-L.A. campus.

"When I was a freshman we had nothing but dirt out there," said Carroll, a senior receiver whom national college recruiting services consider to be among the best in the nation. "Your socks were always dirty. Everything was dirty. We always went to practice dusty.

"There would be some days when you would go in the locker room feeling real good about things and then you smile in the mirror and your teeth would be brown, covered by dirt."

Tonight, those gritty days officially become a distant memory for Carroll and his teammates when Cathedral (2-0) hosts L.A. Contreras (0-3) in its first night home game since the school opened in 1928.

Fresh synthetic turf -- one element of a $4-million stadium makeover -- has replaced the nasty, rock-filled dirt area that the Phantoms used to call a home field. Cathedral's updated look also includes a state-of-the-art scoreboard, a new gym with new locker rooms and a new weight room, and a new science building.

"I've been here for three years and I remember when this project began," said Carroll, the defending state 100- and 200-meter sprint champion who has given USC an oral commitment for next year but is still considering schools such as UCLA, Georgia and Florida. "It's going to feel so good to finally have our own home field. No one can say anything about us now."

Cathedral, an all-boys school with an enrollment of more than 600, has gone through some growing pains the last two decades. But not on the football field, where Kevin Pearson, who began coaching at the school in 1995, has made the Phantoms a force.

Pearson, a former quarterback at South Gate High and East Los Angeles College, has compiled a 113-33 record in 13 seasons at Cathedral and this year's team is ranked No. 8 in the Southern Section's Northwest Division poll. .

"The sell of our school has always been academics and getting kids to college," said Pearson, who spent one season coaching at Woodland Hills Taft, in 2003, before returning to Cathedral.

"We're just getting to that point with athletics and we just hope that families looking at schools like Loyola consider us as a viable alternative."

Cathedral, which has won several league titles and reached a Southern Section championship game under Pearson, should be even tougher to defend with is new field.

"We're a spread [offense] team and it's really important where we line up on the field," Pearson said. "But we didn't have any landmarks at practice. We would chalk the dirt and it would last only a few minutes. It was something that definitely tested your patience."

Things began to change at Cathedral with a $6.2-million contribution from John and Dorothy Shea of the Shea Foundation that helped with the school's $18.1 million in improvements.

But the turning point for Pearson and the Phantom's football program came when a 1970 alum donated nearly $4 million to assist with the stadium field and scoreboard.

"This kind of facility is really unbelievable to be here," said school president Martin Farfan, who graduated from Cathedral in the mid-1980s. "You can see that the kids have a certain swagger and pride being here now. There's a different appreciation because this did not happen with bond money."

The payoff?

Just ask junior wide receiver Anthony Jefferson.

"It's crazy to look at our place now compared to what we had before. This really makes us feel special," he said. "It's just nice to have facilities like this and to know that a little school like this could be on the map and that we're a part of it."


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