Inglewood’s unlikely road to a possible championship

On Friday night, Inglewood, California plays for the CIF Southern Section Division 2 Championship.

Given the circumstances, it’s almost a miracle.

The hurdles for fourth-year coach Mil’Von Jameshis staff and his team are inscrutable to most high school football teams, players and fans.

Let’s start with the field or lack thereof.

Oh, there’s a field at Inglewood, but it’s filled with dead grass and roots. The weight room, if you want to call it that, is an old car shop.

Since taking over the program, James and his coaches have spent thousands of dollars, first on Craigslist and then wherever they could find weights to cobble together some kind of workout space.

There are two platforms in this space that the Los Angeles Chargers have donated, but they are deteriorating badly. The coaches would buy a 40-pound dumbbell here, a 10-pound dumbbell there, and some bench press plates if they could find anything. The benches are taped together with duct tape.

Sometimes birds fly in. There was broken glass when James and his staff took over and cleaned it up as best they could. Sometimes a rat can be seen. There is no running water. No heat in the winter, no air conditioning in the unforgiving Southern California summers.

When James took over, there was no coach office or locker room. Coaches watched a game movie through a projector mounted on a wall.

“It’s proof that we always stay hungry no matter what the circumstances are,” says Inglewood’s athletic director Michael Grim said. “Sometimes I don’t want to say we can do better than this because you can always have a better facility, a better weight room, you always want to have the best. When you’re put in a position, the players, the coaching staff, will to overcome because that’s what makes the story about these kids and these coaching staff and the whole system at Inglewood High great because we don’t practice in the best conditions we don’t have the best weight room but we overcome all the obstacles that we can’t to check.

“It’s about making something happen. You still have to find success.”

With all those obstacles, giving up is understandable.

But this is an Inglewood team undefeated heading into the championship game against Chatsworth (California) Sierra Canyon high school for a time of Kylie and Kendall Jennerof LeBron James, Jr., and the children of Hollywood celebrities.

The dichotomy between the two schools could not be greater.

Sierra Canyon has a beautiful soccer field. As described for this story, Inglewood’s field has potholes and is described as just plain dust and dirt.

Inglewood’s football program does not have sleds for linemen. They just received two bags this year to use in practice. There is no running water at practice, so the coaches buy bottled water for the players to drink.

There is a Caroline Coleman Stadium in Inglewood to use, but it’s shared with Inglewood (California) Morningside and it doubles as a park, so if there’s practice, some people might be working out or there might be a birthday party going on a stone’s throw away.

Last season, Inglewood Mission Hills (California) played Alemany in a game and the coaches had to park their cars with lights on close to the field during practice that week because the lights in the stadium were not working.

Before matches, it is James who tapes his players’ ankles and wrists. There is no equipment manager, so an assistant coach takes on those responsibilities.

James declined to do an interview for this story, but Grimble had high praise for his school’s coach.

“It comes down to coaching and those kids believe in their coach,” Grimble said. “You can play for a coach and not buy or be sold. These kids believe. They believe in coaching, they believe in Mil’Von and for me to see it’s refreshing and he’s a great leader for them.”

“When it comes down to it, they are motivated by him. Me as AD, I see how games are going and I talk to him like every day on the phone. Just to see that…the way the kids react and the lead Even with his staff, everyone is behind him.”

Despite all these challenges, there is still a lot of high level talent on the Inglewood team.

Jamari Johnson is committed to Louisville, but Oregon tries to turn him around. There are other players committed to Nevada, Colorado State and Campbell in the class of 2023.

Terrell Bradshaw in the 2024 class is a three-star receiver who has near double-digit offers. In 2025, quarterback Husan Longstreet has nine offers and is putting together an incredible second season with 3,377 passing yards, 35 touchdowns and five picks.

To get here, Inglewood has 2024 five-star quarterback Julian Sayin and his Carlsbad team, Lawndale (California) Leuzinger, which has numerous Power Five prospects, defeated Apple Valley with Alabama offensive line Raymond Pulido, Rancho Cucamonga and finished survived the weekend in a 41-38 thriller against West Hills Chaminade, who heads to Oregon State and San Diego State.

The Southern Section championship comes down to Inglewood and Sierra Canyon with Stanford DL commit Cameron Brandt, BYU WR pledge Josiah Phillips, Colorado State WR commit Lavon Brown, an impressive 2024 class and hot 2025 quarterback.

Inglewood seems ready for the next challenge.

“We are Bane,” said a person close to the program who asked not to be identified. “As cool as it is to be Batman and be the king of Gotham, Batman has it all. He just decides to be a superhero. Batman doesn’t have to save Gotham. He is rich, he could sit back, but he decides to do it.

“Us? We’re Bane. We’ve got to sit here and fight for things. We’ve got to sit here in everyone’s shadow. If you ask our kids our quote every day, straight up: ‘You’ve adapted to the darkness. We were born into it .’ They’ll tell you.”

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