INSPIRED BY THE LIFE OF FORMER NFL PLAYER SPENCER PAYSINGER – Spencer James is a rising high school football player and an A student at South Crenshaw High who is recruited by Beverly High School’s football coach Billy Baker. Spencer is conflicted on whether or not to move to Beverly High but Spencer’s mother, Grace, and his best friend, Coop, convince Spencer it’s an opportunity he has to seize. When Spencer is forced to move in with Billy and his family, these two families and their vastly different worlds are drawn together. They will discover that the differences that divide us on the surface hide a deeper connection – the complicated, imperfect humanity that unites us all.
It's South Crenshaw vs. Slauson. It's the first game of the season and they're tied during the fourth quarter. They have to score or they're dead. Spencer James develops a game plan and tells his team to charge when he gives the signal. Spencer catches the ball and heads to the endzone. Crenshaw wins.
Shots ring out as gang bangers do a drive by at the field. Screams erupt as everyone, fans and players alike, drop to the ground. Everyone, except for Spencer. He stands in the endzone, arms outstretched, wondering how his moment of glory was dashed in an instant.
After the game, Billy Baker, coach of the Beverly Hill varsity team, catches up with Spencer. A little chit chat flattery and Billy cuts to the chase – he wants Spencer to come play for him. He’s been watching Spencer and he’s what Beverly Hills needs to be a winning team. Billy says the proposal as a win win for both them – Beverly Hills gets a star player and Spencer gets a better (and safer) education and with Billy’s NFL contacts, a road to the pros. Spencer isn’t about any of that though, citing the recruitment violations that he might face (which would bench him for the season) plus the fact South Crenshaw is home.
The next morning at the James residence Spencer grouses about no hot water and it is quickly established that Grace is barely getting by – bills run late sometimes when you’re doing it on your own. The boys have Grace’s refrain down pat, “a cold shower now and then, is good for the soul.” Dillon says this with the gusto of a kid, Spencer is less amused.
At school, Spencer rolls with his bestie, a girl named Tamia "Coop" Cooper. She hits on girls that "belong" to the other Alpha Male of the school, Shawn Scott. Coop insists that Shawn can’t touch her and besides, she’s got Spencer as back-up. As Spencer doodles football plays in class, he gets handed back an A+ on his test.
In the hallway, Shawn has found Coop and things aren’t looking great. Spencer intervenes but after Shawn calls Coop a "she-man", punches get thrown and Spencer is fighting Shawn and his boys. Security guards break up the fight.
That afternoon, Spencer comes home to find his mom and Coach Baker sitting around, waiting for him. Mom knows all about the shooting at the game and the fight at school. She turns to Coach and says that she see this type of stuff all the time with good kids gone bad; she works at the courthouse. Dillon chimes in that there are over 450 active gangs in the LA area but Spencer advises that he’s not helping at this very moment. Coach Baker sits down and gives Spencer some real talk. He grew up in Crenshaw too but someone gave him a chance to get out and he wants to give Spencer the same opportunity. Billy mentions Spencer’s father but he’s gone, Spencer says. Grace adds some exposition that "Corey" left to coach ball in Nevada a few years ago and hasn’t been back since. Spencer clearly has some anger on this topic. Grace piles on saying that Spencer is smart and he’s breezing by at Crenshaw with zero effort and maybe he can really make something of himself beyond football. Grace tells Spencer that he’s refusing this opportunity because he doesn’t want to turn out like his father. But, Grace assures him, Spencer is a good man and she’s proud of who he is. But not taking this shot... its the bad choice. And, if Spencer is being honest with himself, Grace says, he knows this is the best thing for himself. The deal is sealed, as unhappy Spencer looks about it.
The next morning, Spencer takes a multiple bus commute, getting off right in front of his new school.
Coach Baker is walking Spencer through the halls. He’s giving him the rundown on what he needs to do to keep playing ball – maintain his GPA and no fights. The first part should be easy, Billy says, he’s seen Spencer’s transcripts.
In his first class, biology, Spencer experiences his first taste of culture shock when the assignment is announced and every student begins working on their own tablet or laptop. Told to share with someone for the day, Spencer runs into his first asshole classmate, Todd, who refuses to share his tablet with Spencer. Luckily, Olivia comes to his rescue. After class, Olivia gives him the detailed school tour pointing out where all the food and coffee options are and when sushi is served.
Olivia is a smitten kitten with this new boy who is funny and smart. In the courtyard, Spencer is caught staring at a passing beauty. Olivia points out that is Layla Keating, Beverly Hills’ resident sweetheart who may or may not have smoked pot with one of the Obama daughters last year. Jordan Baker comes up to Spencer and Olivia and introduces himself as the team QB, Captain and coach’s son and also Olivia's brother.
Jordan takes over tour guide duties from his sister but not before Spencer locks down “sushi on Friday” with Olivia. She tells him, "it’s a date" and then lambastes herself for being lame.
Meanwhile, Coach Baker is singing Spencer’s praises and his director tells him the Boosters need a winning season or else ... the writing is on the wall.
Jordan introduces Spencer to his crew, teammates and their girls. There is Hadley, who is with Jordan; Layla, Lucy, who is with JJ and Asher. He’s also a hot shot receiver on the team and, therefore, Spencer’s rival. He is quickly turned off by Layla's chatting up of Spencer.
Jordan and JJ try to cover for Asher, playing it off like a joke but Spencer, rightfully, doesn’t take it that way. Layla runs after and tries to make apologies for all of the meatheads, saying they are threatened by Spencer’s presence. He doesn't see it that way, as from where he is sitting, these Beverly Hills boys got it made while he had to catch 3 buses to get to school and he’s wearing his cousin’s polyester hand me downs. Layla points out that he’s supposed to be the second coming of Jesus on the football field.
As if to prove his ability, he correctly predicts a dorky kid dropping his food tray and then turns his observation power on Layla, calling her out as being dominant and bossy but also alone. She leaves for class but tells him that she’s glad he came to Beverly. "Me too," he says.
After school, Spencer practices with his new team. He puts on a receiving show but immediately pisses off his teammates by ball hogging and running the wrong plays. Coach tells him to play Safety but Spencer isn’t having it. He came here to play offense, not defense. Coach makes it clear that Spencer will play what he tells him to play or he won’t play at all. Spencer sits out the rest of practice.
Later, Spencer is venting his first day frustrations to Coop. To teammates who don’t want him and a Coach that said he had his back but then stuck him on Defense. When Coop hears the Coach is black, she asks Spencer is maybe Coach knows what he’s doing. Spencer regurgitates his line about Beverly Hills not being who he is and Coop questions if Crenshaw truly is either. The two friends are interrupted by Shawn and his boys, homeboy is looking for a fight but the cops show up before they can get into it.
At the Baker House, Billy comes up to Jordan to talk about Spencer. Jordan is quick to say Spencer wasn’t much of a team player and Billy tells his son that he needs Jordan to help Spencer out. Take Spencer under his wing. Billy tells his son that he grew up where Spencer did and it’s a shit show compared to this cushy Beverly Hills life that Jordan knows. Give him a chance, is Billy’s request. Jordan agrees.
The next day, Jordan picks Spencer up in the hood, in his red car and red hat. Spencer jumps in and tells him he looks like "Bloods Poster Boy," that he’s going to get his head blown off. The blood drains from Jordan’s face and Spencer starts to laugh. Just kidding, he says! They drive off. they roll up to the Baker house and it’s palatial. Jordan explains that his mom is an attorney. Inside, Laura Baker is very sweet to her husband’s secret weapon. She asks Spencer if he has any food allergies, she’s making her famous gazpacho and needs to know. No, Spencer explains, he’s just always hungry is all. Jordan extricates Spencer from Mom and they go off to hang out, pool side.
Layla watches Spencer come out of the pool. He catches her staring and she smiles as she turns away. She comes over and makes small talk. She lives close just down the street but it’s not really about the size of the house that matters. These two and their chemistry. Jordan watches them a bit and heads inside to get some more drinks.
Jordan overhears his father on the phone with a booster. Billy is talking about Spencer purely as a tool with zero of the concern he’s been professing to Jordan (and to Spencer himself) about the boy and his hard life. Jordan hears his father invite the Boosters down to watch Spencer in action on Saturday. Back outside, Asher is not pleased that his girl is talking very close to Spencer, and Asher and Jordan agree that Spencer has to go.
Spencer asks why Olivia and Jordan aren’t terribly close and she explains that when they got to high school, Jordan became a big football star and she became a social pariah. At his prompting, Olivia explains that she went down a bad path and tried to wash it away with pills but it’s all great now. Good as new. Spencer picks up the false note and asks if it’s really okay. She tells him that he’s the first person to actually ask her that... which is really sad. Layla interrupts their moment with an invite to a party at her house that night; celebrate the stat of the season. Alone, Olivia reminds him that Layla is dating Asher and warns Spencer to steer clear of the parties.
Spencer shows up to the party and quickly finds a corner to stand in. Layla calls him out for not making an effort to meet people and fit in. He tries to leave but Jordan catches him by the arm and tells him the "team managers" are dying to meet him. That’s code for hot chicks in the hot tub. Layla starts passing out shots and Spencer reminds them that they have practice tomorrow but Jordan assures him that Saturday practice is no big deal.
The next morning, Spencer is hurting. He’s in bad shape and only feels worse when JJ explains the Boosters arriving are there to see Spencer, specifically. Spencer is confused, he thought it was just drills but JJ announces that it's scrimmage day. Hungover, Spencer gets in his teammates’ faces for setting him up. Asher doesn’t even try to hide what they did at all, even naming Layla as complicit in getting him to the party so they could make him look bad today. He tells Spencer to go back to Crenshaw, which infuriates Spencer. Coach Baker is there to hold him back, telling Spencer that he will not let him blow his shot. He reminds Spencer of his "one fight and it’s over" rule. Coach Baker is also holding his son responsible but Jordan objects. He calls his father on the lies he’s told to get Spencer to Beverly Hills and save his own job. Jordan looks over his father’s head and speaks right to Spencer, making sure that Spencer understands that Billy is only looking out for Billy.
The Boosters are watching all of this from the stands, they are not impressed.
In the locker room, Coach Baker chases Spencer down and tries to stop him from quitting. He explains that this is Spencer's way out. He tries to convince Spencer that he needs Coach more than Coach needs Spencer and Spencer isn’t really in the mood to listen. He is still pissed that Billy brought him to make him play defense. Coach goes on that he sees the anger from Spencer’s father leaving is making Spencer want to fight anyone he can, but Spencer’s got to understand that his choices now, will affect his life forever.
Spencer tells Coop he can’t keep living with his feet in two different worlds, especially when he doesn’t feel like he belongs in either. Coop tells him to "take the best of both and you boss up". Coop tells Spencer that if he had a fraction of Spencer’s talent, she’d bounce and wouldn’t look back. And, think of the life he could give Dillon and his mom.
After a long bus ride, Spencer shows up to see Coach. He tells Billy was right and that he is angry about his dad and how hard his mom has to struggle, and how hard all of life seems to be. And that it’s that anger that Billy sees between those white lines when Spencer plays – it’s what fuels Spencer. He tells Coach Baker that Beverly can give Spencer that chance at a better life, football or not. And he’ll play wherever Coach needs him. But first, he needs to know why Billy chose him. Billy says he wanted to win, he wanted to get back just a little bit of what he lost. But then he saw Spencer on the field, and he reminds him of him. He gets that Spencer plays cause he’s angry but now, Coach Baker wants Spencer to play for something bigger than that.
It's game day and the Beverly High Eagles are at home, squaring off against Chatsworth. Grace and Dillon are in the stands and Spencer is ready to go. Chatsworth takes a quick lead and there is music over lots of football montage. We see Spencer playing good defense and Beverly Hills is keeping it close though they are still losing. It’s final possession for Beverly Hills and not much time on the clock. Spencer sees one of the Chatsworth players is hurt. He tells Coach Baker to run a pay where Asher throws a block against the guy allowing Jordan to score by going around him. Baker asks if Spencer thinks that he can take the big guy. Spencer knows he can.
Baker makes his decision and pulls Asher off the field. Spencer goes in and the play is called. The ball is snapped and Spencer takes off to the side. He lowers his shoulder and throws a big block taking out the main defender. Jordan runs into the hole and scrambles the 25 yards to touchdown. Beverly Hills wins.
Coach Baker only has eyes (and praise) for Spencer, which leaves his son who just scored the touchdown feeling a little butt hurt. Jordan calls over a player from Chatworth for a chat.
As Spencer is coming off the field, Olivia is planning to go up to him but Layla cuts in and congratulates him and apologizes for her part in the drunken party plan. She offers to start over again and Spencer is all smiles. Olivia walks off in the background.
The next day, Spencer is all of a sudden a big deal on campus. Overnight, everyone seems to know who he is and his smile is glowing brightly. Coach Baker calls him over and says that they've got a problem. Chatsworth is protesting Spencer’s transfer permit. Spencer's smile quickly fades.
The athletic director tells Baker that no one is going to believe the Football coach went down to Crenshaw to pull Spencer to the school because he’s smart. Billy suggests that Spencer moves to the zip code. Spencer tells him that his mom can barely afford to give him lunch money, not to mention moving to Beverly Hills. Spencer thinks it's over, but Coach thinks there is another way.
Grace asks if Spencer is sure, he says no. Spencer is going to move into Coach Baker’s house. He’ll live in Beverly Hills Monday through Friday and come home to Crenshaw on the weekends. Grace isn’t terribly happy about this but he reminds her of this being the best things for him. Dillon gives his blessing too, though he’d like Spencer’s room when he’s gone. "Definitely not." The James family all hugs.
At the Baker's house, Billy walks in with Spencer. Laura gives him a big hug. Jordan doesn't look too happy, but shakes hands with Spencer nevertheless.
In her big, empty house, Layla sits alone.
Back in Crenshaw, Coop is rolling with Shawn’s crew now. She looks very apprehensive which makes me think she is going to do something she should not, just to fit in.
Spencer is hanging in his new room at the Baker's residence. Olivia pops in his doorway, “welcome to Beverly Hills, Spencer.” He smiles. She leaves.
Grace hears a knock. She opens the door and there is Coach Baker standing there. Billy says they need to talk. They have to tell Spencer the truth.