A Southern California high school football game made national headlines Friday when Inglewood High School defeated cross-town Morningside High School by a lopsided score of 106-0.
The two teams were clearly mismatched. Undefeated Inglewood, which is laden with talent that includes several of the top recruits from the state of California, was up 59-0 before the first quarter had even ended, which is unfathomable in and of itself. Morningside, which concluded its season with a record of 2-8, had already been beaten 50-0 in one game earlier this season, and fell 67-0 in another game.
But the 106-0 score wasn’t even the main storyline of the game. According to Morningside’s first-year head coach, Brian Collins, the opposing coach — Inglewood’s Mil’Von James — refused requests from the referees for a running clock at the start of the second quarter. James also kept his starting quarterback, Justyn Martin, in the game throughout and let him rack up big stats.
Martin, a 4-star prospect who is committed to UCLA as one of the top quarterbacks in the 2022 class, finished with 13 touchdown passes, the most by a high school quarterback since 1921.
That’s not all. With the score 98-0, Inglewood scored another touchdown late in the game to go over the century mark. Up 104-0, the Sentinels went for two, scoring on a two-point conversion pass by Martin.
There is classless, and then there’s whatever that was that took place in Inglewood Friday night. The mere use of the word “classless” doesn’t begin to describe it.
James is in his second season as head coach of Inglewood. When he took over, the program was coming off an 0-10 season and had not had a winning season since 2012. Since James took over, the school is 25-1.
So James clearly knows how to win football games. But I hesitate to say that he’s a good football coach.
Being a “good football coach,” at least at the high school level, is about more than wins and losses. It’s about teaching both the game of football and character to impressionable young people between the ages of 14 and 19.
What does leaving your star quarterback in a game that was decided before the opening kickoff and allowing him to throw for 13 touchdown passes teach anybody? The only thing it accomplishes is allowing him to pad his stats, and allow James to fuel his ego at the expense of a bunch of kids who were clearly out-matched.
He must be quite a guy.
For the record, all of Inglewood’s top players — seven of them are committed to play college football — are transfers to the school. And the LA Times revealed that James was fired from another Los Angeles high school in 2016 for using ineligible players, a stunt that caused the school to have to forfeit every victory.
Good coaches — ones who would instill character in their players — would never dream of pulling a stunt like the one James pulled Friday night. Spare me the “well, it’s the other team’s job to stop them” line. Sometimes the other team is just outmatched. Intentionally trying to embarrass a bunch of high school kids to satisfy your own adult ego speaks volumes about your character, or lack thereof. When the score is 59-0 at the end of the first quarter, it’s pretty apparent that the other team can’t stop you. If you’re playing your backups, and the backups to your backups, that’s one thing. When you’re still playing your starters and going for two when it’s already 104-0, the “it’s the other team’s job to stop them” line doesn’t hold water.
I’m reminded of former Oneida coach Tony Lambert, who was quicker than anyone in the Tennessee high school game to call off the dogs after his team had the victory in hand. He never tried to embarrass the other team, never tried to rub their faces in defeat.
I’m also reminded of an Oneida-Coalfield game a few years ago, when the late Keith Henry had a 28-6 lead and had the ball inside the Indians’ 10-yard-line in the waning moments. He could’ve easily punched the ball on into the end zone. Instead, he had his QB take a knee for four plays until the ball went over on downs.
The same is true of Scott High soccer coach Eric Henry. In a game against Oliver Springs this year, he began to call off the dogs as soon as his team was up 2-0. In a game against Harriman last year, he played his reserves almost all the way and won 3-1 in a game he could’ve easily won in a mercy rule finish (9-0). His reasoning? If one team is going to drive an hour to play a soccer game, you might as well play all 80 minutes and get everyone some time on the field instead of having the game end early.
Those are examples of good coaches who teach their kids character as well as how to win.
It’s unfortunate that such sportsmanship isn’t uniform. Even here in East Tennessee, there are examples of coaches who aren’t exactly great sports, and we’ve seen it as recently as this season, involving teams that have faced our own local teams.
But what happened in California completely shattered the mold of unsportsmanlike behavior. Not since Georgia Tech defeated a group of Cumberland College frat boys by a 222-0 score back in 1916 has there been a more ruthless attempt to completely humiliate an opponent under the guise of sport.
For the record, the Inglewood school district, which both schools belong to, harshly condemned James’ actions and said it will investigate. And the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section — Southern California’s version of the TSSAA — also condemned it.
At the end of the day, though, words are just words. And action should be forthcoming. Writing on Twitter, basketball commentator Dick Vitale said that James should be fired. Rarely will I agree with Dickie V, but this is one of those circumstances. Mil’Von James should be fired.