On Friday night, Inglewood, Calif., will be playing for the CIF Southern Section Division 2 Championship.
Considering the circumstances, it’s almost a miracle.
The obstacles for fourth-year coach Mil’Von James, his staff and his team are unfathomable 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 auto shop.
Since taking over the program, James and his coaches have spent thousands of dollars first on Craigslist and then anywhere they could find weights to cobble together some semblance of a workout room.
There are two platforms in this space that the Los Angeles Chargers donated but they’ve been deteriorating badly. The coaches would buy a 40-pound dumbbell here, a 10-pound dumbbell there, some plates for the bench press when they could find something. The benches are duct taped together.
Birds fly in sometimes. There was broken glass when James and his staff took over and cleaned it up best they could. Sometimes, a rat can be seen. There’s no running water. No heat in the winter, no air conditioning in the brutal Southern California summers.
When James took over, there was no coaches’ office or locker room. Coaches watched game film off a projector on a wall.
“It’s a testament to always staying hungry no matter what the conditions are,” Inglewood athletic director Michael Grimble said. “Sometimes, I don’t want to say we can do better than this, because you always can have a better facility, a better weight room, you always want to have the best. When you are put in a position, the players, the coaching staff, to overcome, because that’s what makes the story on these kids and this 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 any obstacles that we can’t control.
“It’s the matter of making something happen. You still have to find success.”
With all those obstacles, giving up is understandable.
But this is an Inglewood team that’s undefeated heading into the championship game against Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon, the high school for a time of Kylie and Kendall Jenner, of LeBron James, Jr., and the children of Hollywood celebrities.
The dichotomy between the two schools could not be any more stark.
Sierra Canyon has an exquisite football field. As described for this story, Inglewood’s field has pot holes in it and has been described as straight dust and dirt.
Inglewood’s football program has no linemen sleds. They just received two bags this year to use in practice. There’s no running water at practice so the coaches buy bottled water so the players have something to drink.
There is Caroline Coleman Stadium in Inglewood to use but it’s shared with Inglewood (Calif.) Morningside and it doubles as a park so if practice is there, some people could be working out or a birthday party could be happening feet away.
Last season, Inglewood played Mission Hills (Calif.) Alemany in a game and the coaches had to park their cars with the lights on close to the field during practice that week because the lights at the stadium weren’t working.
Before games, it’s James who tapes his players’ ankles and wrists. There’s no equipment manager so an assistant coach handles those responsibilities.
James declined to do an interview for this story, but Grimble had plenty of 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 in or be sold. These kids, they believe. They believe in the coaching, they believe in Mil’Von and for me to see that it’s refreshing and he’s a great leader for them.
“When it comes down to it, they’re motivated by him. Me as the AD, I see how games go and I talk to him like every day on the phone. Just to see that … the way the kids react and the leadership, even with his staff, everybody is behind him.”
Even with all these challenges, there is still significant high-level talent on the Inglewood team.
Jamari Johnson is committed to Louisville but Oregon is trying to flip him. There are other players committed to Nevada, Colorado State and Campbell in the 2023 class.
Terrell Bradshaw in the 2024 class is a three-star receiver who has nearly double-digit offers. In 2025, quarterback Husan Longstreet has nine offers and is putting together an incredible sophomore season with 3,377 passing yards, 35 touchdowns and five picks.
To get here, Inglewood has beaten 2024 five-star quarterback Julian Sayin and his Carlsbad team, Lawndale (Calif.) Leuzinger, which has numerous Power Five prospects, Apple Valley with Alabama offensive line commit Raymond Pulido, Rancho Cucamonga and survived last weekend in a 41-38 thriller against West Hills Chaminade, which has commits going to Oregon State and San Diego State.
The Southern Section championship comes down to Inglewood and Sierra Canyon which features Stanford DL commit Cameron Brandt, BYU WR pledge Josiah Phillips, Colorado State WR commit Lavon Brown, an impressive 2024 class and a hot 2025 quarterback.
Inglewood seems ready for the next challenge.
“We’re Bane,” said a person close to the program who asked not to be identified. “As cool as it is to be Batman and to be the king of Gotham, Batman has everything. He just decides to be a superhero. Batman doesn’t have to save Gotham. He’s rich, he could sit back, but he decides to do it.
“Us? We’re Bane. We have to sit here and fight for things. We have to sit here in everyone’s shadows. If you ask our kids our quote every day, straight up, ‘You adapted to darkness. We’re born in it.’ They’ll tell you that.”