Inglewood High School football coach Mil’Von James still has a bitter taste in his mouth from the last game of the Sentinels played a full season.
That Friday night on November 22, 2019 at Esperanza High School, the Sentinels carried an unblemished 12-0 record into the championship semifinals and was one game away from an elusive CIF Southern Section championship.
In a game that went back and forth like a windshield wiper, Inglewood still held the lead in the final seconds, but lost on a trick play two-point conversion that cost them an opportunity of a lifetime.
The final score read 42-41 and the 2020 COVID-19 season would be pushed to an abbreviated 2021 spring slate that would last just a game because of coronavirus pandemic.
“It lingers. 2019 is in the back of my mind for sure. That day we got beat and as a coach I wanted to make sure that I did everything in my power to not have that feeling again,” James, in his second full season, told Inglewood Today.
James is one of the best and most successful high school coaches in the football hotbed of Southern California and he did exactly what was necessary to continue that title chase.
A football gym rat, he went right back to work drilling and preparing his 15 returning players and reloading with Division I recruits for this year.
Kicking off the season against a talented and ranked Loyola squad, the Sentinels were tested off the bat.
They fell behind 24-15 at the half and then 26-15 after three, but outscored the Cubs 14-0 in the fourth quarter to eke out a 29-26 victory.
Measured by the James lofty expectations has of his team it was an underwhelming performance.
Star running back Tomarion Harden who is headed to UCLA rushed for 196 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
California bound quarterback Justyn Martin completed 21 of 30 passes for a touchdown.
And defensive stalwarts Marshon Oxley (San Diego St. recruit), All American Clint Stephens (UCLA commit) and crushing linebacker Taariq Al-Uqdah (Washington St. recruit) all demonstrated that Inglewood will be a force to be reckoned with.
That is if it can secure opponents for the rest of the season.
Teams that witnessed the Loyola game have carefully made their best effort to avoid playing a teams that has elevated their program to compete with the most powerful teams in the region.
Next up for Inglewood will be patsy Compton at their designated home field El Camino College on Sept. 3 their final non-league affair against St. Francis on Sept. 10 at El Camino College.
Asked if this was his best team, James had to catch his breath. He did coach a Hawkins High School team that was among the most talented in the state, but he added: “I will say this is the deepest team that I’ve had and the best Inglewood team that I have had so far.”
Now, they will just have to go and prove it on the football field.
Inglewood Today coverage of local news in Los Angeles County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support minority-owned-and-operated community newspapers across California.