At 5-8 and 160 pounds, Luis Dorame looks more like a team manager than a star quarterback.
But Dorame, 17, a senior, has navigated the Monroe Vikings to a place they haven’t visited in more than 40 years: a City Section championship game. Monroe will play Los Angeles High for the Division III title on Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum, hoping to cap the team’s best year since 2007, the last time Monroe enjoyed a winning season.
“All that hard work, those 6 a.m. workouts we’ve been through, all that effort we put in on and off the field has finally paid off after all the years. … The plan was for us to make it to the championship game, and here we are — finally,” said Dorame, reflecting on the Vikings in 2014.
Dorame certainly wasn’t around for the Vikings’ last title game in 1971 (losing to Carson.) Probably neither was anyone else currently at Monroe. But if the fan support on Saturday is anything like it was at Monroe’s Nov. 28 road semifinal game at Bernstein High in Hollywood — when there were more Vikings’ fans in the stands than Dragons’ fans — Dorame will be grateful.
“All the hard stuff we’ve been through, the support we’re getting helps so much,” he said. “It boosts not only the morale but the determination, the hunger for us to succeed and win that championship.”
For most of the season it has been Dorame’s arm that has ignited the Vikings’ offense. He’s thrown for nearly 3,500 yards and 33 touchdowns. But it was his legs that were the difference in Monroe’s stirring 22-19 semifinal victory.
The Vikings were trailing 7-6 to start the second half when Dorame took them on a scoring drive to open the third quarter. The key play was a 30-yard run through the middle of the Dragons’ defense that set up Monroe on the 1-yard line. He scored a play later, and gave Monroe the lead. Dorame delivered the same thing on Monroe’s next possession — another Dragon-deflating long run to set up a second score. Both touchdowns were followed by two-point conversions, which gave Monroe enough of a lead to withstand a late Bernstein rally.
“The momentum shifted tremendously after those runs,” Dorame said. “I felt great getting the momentum on our side, and getting us in the red zone, a couple yards away from touchdowns.
“Both were designed pass plays. But I looked up and didn’t see anybody in front of me. I looked front side to back side, and in a split-second I decided to tuck the ball and run. I saw a huge opening up the middle and took it. I wish I could have gotten in for touchdowns but we scored anyway.”
It was that kind of decision-making that Coach Don Senegal — who installed Dorame at quarterback as a freshman in 2011 — hoped would make a difference in Monroe’s football fortunes.
“He never gets excited,” Senegal said. “Even as a freshman he had that calm demeanor. I like that in a QB, that calm demeanor, especially with young guys around who haven’t played before.
“In our run game he has the option to give or keep the ball. Knowing him, he probably was going to pull the ball out regardless (on those plays). He made the right decisions. That showed his growth and maturity.”
Dorame said he’ll be excited about playing in the Coliseum on Saturday, but calm and focused at game time. He expects his teammates to be the same.
“We’ve got to keep playing like we’ve been playing, keep putting in the effort, keep driving and stay hungry (to win),” Dorame said. “And no matter what, we have to stay disciplined and focused.
“As long as we play Monroe football, nothing can stop us.”