Jefferson wins first high school football game at the Coliseum since 2016

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As the Jefferson High football team left the historic tunnel of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Thursday afternoon and made their way to the end of the peristyle to see the pristine grass pitch, the unlit Olympic torch and 78,000 red seats which were mostly empty, freshman coach Jason Grant unexpectedly ordered everyone back to the locker room.

He didn’t care to interrupt the moment. He saw uniforms that hadn’t fit. He saw players not walking side by side. He saw an attitude that wasn’t focused on playing an important high school football game. A top assistant at Crenshaw for 10 years under coach Robert Garrett, Grant saw a teachable moment.

The next time the Democrats came out of the locker room, they were ready. From the opening kickoff to the final game, they were the best team in a historic return to high school football at the Coliseum. They beat Manual Arts 40-14 to advance to 3-0 in the Exposition League and moved closer to winning the league title.

Coliseum officials invited Jefferson and Manual Arts, followed by La Cañada and Pasadena Poly, to play the Coliseum in a doubleheader. High school teams hadn’t played there since 2016 when Crenshaw played Dorsey and San Pedro against Banning. It was a test to see if more games could be played at the Coliseum, where there was once a crowd of 41,000 for the Southern Section Championship Game in 1956. The Shrine Game, featuring college stars, at the Coliseum in 1957 drew a crowd of 85,931.

The city section held their league games at the Coliseum until the costs got too high. The Coliseum is now operated by USC and discussions are expected in the coming weeks to see the scheduling of games in 2022 that do not conflict with USC home games. Colosseum General Manager Joe Furin hopes that happens as the Colosseum celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2023 and knows that high school events are part of its great legacy.

Jefferson opened up a 21-0 halftime lead. James Farmer scored, catching a short pass and going 76 yards untouched into the end zone. Norman Mason, in his first game of the season after becoming eligible, caught a 53-yard touchdown pass.

Players were grateful for the chance to play at the Coliseum. USC did their best to make it a special day, lighting the Olympic torch early in the game. A small group of fans watched from the side of the press box. Even the officials were happy to work on the game.

Jefferson football players gather in the Colosseum tunnel before their game against Manual Arts.

(Eric Sondheimer/Los Angeles Times)

“I came here to watch the Rams and the Raiders,” official Kevin Morris said. “Now refereeing here is quite exciting.”

In the final match, Pasadena Poly beat La Cañada 34-24.

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