The birth of what evolved into a terrific rivalry happened almost 12 years ago, when the football teams of Birmingham High and Dorsey High of Los Angeles played a regular season nonleague game on Oct. 8, 2004.
But that rivalry between two of the City Section’s more successful Division I programs ended in 2012 and has been dormant — until now.
The Patriots (1-2) and the Dons (1-1) renew acquaintances on Friday, Sept. 16, for a nonleague game at Rancho Cienega Park near the Dorsey campus.
Birmingham Coach Jim Rose normally seeks out Southern Section schools for nonleague games because they, like the Patriots, often have enough players to field frosh-soph, junior varsity and varsity teams, which provides more opportunities for experience.
And, he adds, “there’s also not that many Valley (City Division I) schools that can match up — or want to match up — with those guys down the hill there. But it’s always been that way…I can’t remember anyone else from the Valley [recently] playing a Dorsey in the regular season. I could be wrong.”
From 2004 to 2011, the Patriots and Dons played eight games, with each team winning four times. Birmingham won the biggest matchup — the 2004 City Division I championship game. The Patriots also won three straight meetings between 2006-08. Dorsey won the last two meetings, including the 2011 Division I semifinal (see box).
The series also featured two well respected coaches: Birmingham’s Ed Croson (now at Chaminade) and Dorsey’s Paul Knox (retired) each won four City championships at their respective schools.
“The games have always been measuring sticks for both teams. And I think it will be that way again,” Rose said.
His biggest concern, beyond the inordinate amount of time the Patriots will spend traveling to the game in Friday rush hour traffic, is how ready his team will be. This grouping of Birmingham players form one of the most inexperienced teams Rose has had since becoming head coach in 2009.
“We’re getting better every week. But we’re young; we’re young young,” Rose said. “I’m actually playing a lot of guys who should be on JV this year, in a normal year.”
What is helping to motivate the Patriots is the fact they are coming off their first win of the season, a 31-21 victory against Canoga Park. Levi Scheklar, a senior and three-year starter who is the most experienced returning player on the Patriots, said he saw positive signs in the Canoga Park game that the team is heading in the right direction.
“I feel the offense got better,” said Scheklar, who plays on the offensive and defensive lines. “On offense, we ran the ball really well last week. Our counter plays were doing well, our runs to the outside were doing well. I feel like we kinda found an identity on offense. And the defense…we played relatively stout against the run. I think we still have some more work to do against the pass.”
He admits it’s been “frustrating” at times for the younger players who are competing at the varsity level before some of them may be ready to do so. But Scheklar said he was in the same situation two years ago.
“I feel I really improved from my sophomore year because we played some great competition,” he said. “And for these guys, it’s going to make them better in the years to come to have played at the varsity level so early.”
Marcos Maron, a junior who plays free safety, transferred to Birmingham from St. Genevieve. He said he’s witnessed another type of improvement.
“I can say we have matured a lot, as to where we’re not taking things personally, and being more coachable on the field from peers,” Maron said. “I didn’t see it in the summer; people could get feelings hurt. But I can say now we’re coachable.
“Now we need to feed off each other during the game, have a certain level of confidence…We should have a reasonable amount of confidence this week. Not ‘we’re gonna smack ‘em,’ but also not be ‘we have not a shot of winning.’ Somewhere in the middle.”
Both Birmingham and Dorsey seek a return to championship level. In recent times, Narbonne in Harbor City has dominated City football. The Gauchos have won four of the past five titles, including three straight, and are heavily favored to win it again in 2016.
Competing against each other is a start.
Right now “it’s a two-year contract. Next year they come [come to Birmingham]. Then we’ll see,” Rose said.
Fans of both teams can hope this turns into a long-term renewal, and not a short interlude.
Birmingham – Dorsey Rivalry
Oct. 8, 2004 — Dorsey 21-14
Dec. 10, 2004 — Birmingham, 36-13*
Oct. 7, 2005 — Dorsey, 46-21
Sept. 29, 2006 — Birmingham, 38-25
Sept. 28, 2007 — Birmingham, 30-10
Oct. 3, 2008 — Birmingham, 44-6
Oct. 2, 2009 — Dorsey, 36-21
Nov. 25, 2011 — Dorsey, 45-15**
— City Division I championship
** — City Division I playoffs