In 1971, at the segregated T. C. Williams High School, a black head coach Herman Boone (Washington) is hired to lead the school’s football team. Boone takes over from the current coach Bill Yoast (Patton), nominated for the Virginia High School Hall of Fame. As a show of respect, Boone offers an assistant coordinator coaching position to Yoast. Yoast at first refuses Boone’s offer, but reconsiders after the white players pledge to boycott the team if he does not participate. Dismayed at the prospect of the students losing their chances at scholarships, Yoast changes his mind and takes up the position of defensive coordinator.
Black and white football team members frequently clash in racially motivated conflicts at their football camp, including some between captain Gerry Bertier (Hurst), and Julius Campbell (Harris). But after forceful coaxing and rigorous athletic training by Boone, the team achieves racial harmony and success. After returning from football camp, Boone is told by a member of the school board that if he loses even a single game, he will be fired. Subsequently, the Titans go through the season undefeated while battling racial prejudice, before slowly gaining support from the community.
Just before the state semi-finals, Yoast is told by a member of the school board that he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame after the Titans lose one game, implying he wants Boone to be fired over his race. During the game, it becomes apparent that the referees are biased against the Titans. Yoast warns the head official that he will go to the press and expose the scandal unless it is refereed fairly. The Titans win, but Yoast is told that his actions have resulted in his loss of candidacy for induction.
While celebrating the victory, Bertier is in an automobile accident, after driving through an intersection. Although Bertier could not play due to injury, the team goes on to win the championship. Ten years later Bertier dies in a second car accident and team coaches and athletes reunite to attend his funeral.