Birmingham beats Chatsworth in a season player calls a ‘blessing’

The strangest, most improbable high school football season in California history ended on Friday night. City Section players will be able to tell their grandkids one day what it was like to play in the middle of a pandemic.

“Truthfully, this season has been a blessing,” Birmingham All-City receiver Arlis Boardingham said. “A lot opted out. Others didn’t have the numbers they wanted. I’m just happy to be able to play.”

The scene more than an hour before Birmingham’s season finale at Chatsworth saw players putting on pads and jerseys near the visiting bleachers outside under protocols that no locker rooms are allowed. Before that, they had their temperatures checked and had to prove they passed testing requirements. No visiting parents were permitted to attend. One player came onto the field running frantically.

”I’m a lot more lenient with guys being late or missing practice,” Birmingham coach Jim Rose said. “There’s not as much punishment. Come summer and fall we’re back to normal and tightening the reins.”

Birmingham (4-2), an independent charter school, was able to play six games. Chatsworth (2-2) got to play four games. Incredibly, the Chancellors had just two freshmen go out for football.

“I just don’t think it was a priority,” Chatsworth coach Marvin Street said. “Getting students acclimated to Zoom was.”

On Friday night, Birmingham came away with a 44-0 victory. The Patriots held a 30-0 halftime lead. Jeremiah Cox, a senior who Rose feels should be playing college football in the future, had a 39-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Forrest Brock. Nico Lagos caught a 15-yard TD pass from Brock. On the night, Brock passed for four touchdowns, Lagos got two TDs and Tyler Smith rushed for `132 yards and one touchdown.

Street, a first-year head coach, made it a priority to get his 12 Chatsworth seniors off to college. He said 10 have the grades to enter colleges in the fall.

“It was worth it because kids got a sense of returning to normalcy,” Street said of the abbreviated season. ”It teaches the kids real lessons about this whole pandemic. It’s the new operational definition of delayed gratification.”

Coaches had to adapt and adjust at a moment’s notice. One example happened on Thursday night. San Pedro coach Corey Miller learned Carson would not be able to play on Friday because of a positive coronavirus test. Miller called Garfield coach Lorenzo Hernandez at 9:45 p.m. asking to play the Bulldogs. He immediately said yes even though he had his seniors turn in their equipment Thursday afternoon. LAUSD helped by reserving buses. San Pedro went on to win 55-0.

“I used to say take one day at a time. My new motto is one hour at a time,” Miller said.

The teams that got to play any games this spring season in the City Section should be considered survivors. Narbonne, once the best team in the City, finally played its first game on Friday. It lost to Wilmington Banning, 37-0. Dorsey, Eagle Rock and Franklin were among the schools that never played.

There is a ray of hope. Playoffs for City Section teams in the spring season will take place next month. Basketball teams are finally expected to get into gyms this coming week to start playing. Weight rooms should be available for summer conditioning.

There’s also hope if players as talented as the 6-foot-5 Boardingham stick around. No one would blame if he went to one of the football factories in the Southern Section. For now, he’s sticking it out. He’s only a junior.

“The challenge of being a City school, you know sometimes it’s going to be an uphill battle,” he said. “That’s what I’m here for. I’m here for the challenge. If I don’t get this adversity now, when I’m going to get it, I won’t be ready.”

Outside the fence on DeSoto Boulevard, a Birmingham parent shouted, “Let’s go Birmingham.” Finding a way to support their kids has been a year-long priority for parents everywhere, no matter how small the gesture might be.

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