As recently as 2018, Inglewood was the laughingstock of the Pioneer League.

They lost 49-0 to Franklin. They lost 57-15 to Carson, 55-7 to West Torrance and 44-0 to North Torrance. They went 0-10 on the season, in the final game losing 20-7 to Morningside.

“It’s been so many years since this community had something to root for,” current coach Mil’Von James told the Daily Breeze in 2019.

Finally, they do. Inglewood is a powerhouse now, undefeated in a complete heel turn over the past few years. They’ve jumped from Division 13 to Division 2 in the span of three seasons under James.

Inglewood will take on the undefeated St. Bonaventure on Friday in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs.

Yet the wounds of a recent past defined by a losing and downtrodden program don’t always heal so easily.

Inglewood’s 106-0 drubbing of Morningside on Friday night has sparked an internet-wide debate over sportsmanship. After UCLA commit Justyn Martin stayed in the game until the clock hit zeroes, throwing 13 touchdowns and completing a two-point conversion with a 104-0 lead, the CIF Southern Section released a statement condemning Inglewood’s actions. Morningside coach Brian Collins called it a “classless move.” Some, such as Dick Vitale, are calling for disciplining of the Inglewood coaching staff.

But some in the Inglewood High community see things differently — a pride in a program that’s risen from the ashes, and a defiance of a courtesy that they felt wasn’t afforded to them.

“Yep we ran the score up,” wrote Edward Morgan, the president of Premium Sports LA, on Instagram. “No body eased up Inglewood when they went 0-10 before we pulled up.”

“We,” in this case, refers heavily to James, who is affiliated with Premium Sports LA. A former player for UCLA, James built Hawkins High into a strong program before being fired for using ineligible players. Thanks to his connections through Premium Sports, James completely reversed the fortunes of Inglewood within a single season — from 0-10 to 12-1 in 2019 — after bringing in a slew of transfers.

James did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

This Inglewood team boasts seven college commitments, all of whom were transfer students. While the team has stayed largely quiet after Friday’s blowout, some players have taken to social media to defend their coach amid calls for his firing.

“Lots of people getting mad about this,” @ZSoskin wrote on Twitter, which was retweeted by junior cornerback Moin Gammage and senior safety Clint Stephens. “Inglewood went 0-10 the year before they hired Milvon & Fig. In the two full and one covid season since then they are 25-1, and will have at least 8 seniors get D1 scholarships this year. They are changing kids’ lives, that’s what matters.”

Similarly, Stephens retweeted another comment defending James and his molding of the program, stating that “[one] game doesn’t negate all the good they’ve done for the community.”

General discourse online has often turned ugly. On Friday, @Inglewood_FBall on Twitter, which labels itself Inglewood football’s official account, tweeted “We run the Wood.” Replies included more accusations of poor sportsmanship.

Some Inglewood players, however, expressed confusion at being vilified.

A day after the win, senior linebacker Taariq Al-Uqdah tweeted, “What’s up with the hate towards Inglewood?? … We just playing ball,” with a facepalm and crying-laughing emoji. Sophomore receiver Terrell Bradshaw Jr. liked the tweet.

Senior receiver D’Mauria Thomas quote tweeted Al-Uqdah’s comment and added, “mann I don’t understand,” with another cry-laugh emoji. Al-Updah and Thomas did not immediately respond to messages seeking further comment.

Inglewood High Principal Debbie Tate released a statement on behalf of the school and team, apologizing to Morningside and saying that James had also apologized.

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