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SAN GABRIEL VALLEY LEAGUE FOOTBALL
By Loren Kopff
For the last 24 minutes of Gahr’s home game with Paramount last Friday night, the defense played as well as it could against a team that lives off of the ground attack. But it was the first seven seconds of the game that set the tone for the rest of the night.
A botched onside kick to begin the game ended up with Paramount’s Xavier Williams going 51 yards the other way for a touchdown and the Pirates went on for a 21-7 victory in the San Gabriel Valley League opener for both teams. The Pirates entered the game as the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Southeast Division’s fourth ranked team. But the Gladiators, who have struggled on defense at times this season, limited the Pirates to just two offensive touchdowns. Entering the game, Paramount was averaging 47 points a game.
“We don’t catch anyone off guard,” said Gahr head coach Greg Marshall. “We have six in the front which is fine. But their one guy was there and [senior Isaiah Soto] kicks it there. Why he kicked it right to him? I don’t know.”
“We knew; they always like to play games,” said Paramount head coach Matt Howard as he anticipated an onside kick. “We were ready for it. We knew they were going to open the game with either a pooch or an onside and Xavier was ready. We’ll take it. It’s an exciting way to start the game.”
When Paramount finally got to begin a drive, it went another 51 yards to go up 14-0. But this time, the Pirates used 5:47 and gained all but 14 yards on the ground. Denote Dixon ended the drive with a one-yard run.
Throughout the first half, Gahr’s offense was being held in check and was on the field for less than eight minutes, gaining only 42 yards of offense. Gahr had four drives in the half, all of them ending in punts and the farthest it got was to the Paramount 34-yard line.
Gahr was hoping to get some momentum going in the third quarter but senior quarterback Caleb Baumann was sacked on fourth and 11 from the Paramount 46-yard line. Then over three minutes later, sophomore safety Leotis Johnson III intercepted a pass off an errant fake field goal attempt and proceeded to go 83 yards the other way for a touchdown. But the Gladiators were called for an illegal use of the hands infraction and the ball was brought back to the Paramount 46-yard line.
Gahr would go three and out but got the ball again off another turnover and this time capitalized off of the miscue when Baumann launched a 51-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Christian Pabico with 25 seconds left in the third quarter.
“We were right there score-wise,” Marshall said. “We played a pretty good defense. We did. We screwed up on third and long in the first half and that onside kick was pretty much the game. With some offense, I think we play better defense. With a little momentum, we have to play that well. If we score, we put the pressure on them and who knows?”
Gahr had only two possessions in the fourth quarter but it was the second one that was the game killer. Following a bad snap off a Paramount punt, the Gladiators were 25 yards away from the end zone. Senior Alex Kline caught a 22-yard pass from Baumann and Gahr had a first and goal situation from the one-yard line. But a penalty and an incomplete pass moved Gahr back. Eventually, Paramount’s defense stopped Kline on consecutive plays at the one-yard line on third and fourth downs with 3:22 left to play.
“We had opportunities and we could have gotten lucky on the pick for six,” Marshall said. “We just didn’t do enough to win the game.”
Baumann was 13 of 23 for 158 with four different receivers catching three passes. Pabico had 68 receiving yards followed by 40 from senior Kendren Pitchford, 26 from senior Patrick Enewally and 11 from Kline. Kline also gained 47 yards on 14 carries as the Gladiators visit Downey tonight, hoping to avoid going 0-2 in league action for the third straight season. Gahr hasn’t fared too well against the Vikings over the past 10 meetings, winning just once and going 0-5 on Downey’s field since 1998.
“I like the fact that we’re playing good football,” Marshall said. “We’re still building with the offense and the quarterback situation. The defense is there. We’ll be just fine. We just have to fix some things.”
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