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2013 FOOTBALL PREVIEW Norwalk primed to win Suburban League title, John Glenn hoping to compete

 By Loren Kopff

Sports editor’s note: This is the second installment of several area football previews that will continue throughout the rest of the month.

JOHN GLENN EAGLES

2-8 overall last season, 1-5 in the Suburban League, sixth place, 17-33 overall last five seasons 

Head coach: Ray Niemann (fourth season, 8-22)

Lost 20 seniors out of 50 from 2012 opening day roster

Last time made the playoffs: 2002

2013 schedule

Aug. 30 @    Magnolia (3-7 overall last season)

Sept. 6 @     Pioneer (1-7-1)

Sept. 13 @   Santa Ana Valley (7-4)

Sept. 20 @   Gardena (7-4)

Sept. 27       BYE

Oct. 4           La Mirada (10-2)

Oct. 11 @    Mayfair (4-6)

Oct. 18         Cerritos (0-10)

Oct. 25 @    Norwalk (9-3)

Nov. 1 (HC)  Artesia (4-6)

Nov. 8 @      Bellflower (6-5)

It was another long season for the Eagles, who extended their playoff drought to 10 seasons, second longest in the Suburban League behind Cerritos (11 seasons). Head coach Ray Niemann saw his team go in the opposite direction from 2011 when Glenn won four games. The Eagles had talent with their skill personnel, but when it was all said and done, they crashed both offensively and defensively.

OFFENSE

After scoring 263 points in 2011, Glenn mustered 143 last season and failed to reach 15 points four times in the nine games it played on the field. In fact, the team scored 73 points in the first three games of the season, winning once and nearly defeating Pioneer but ended up losing by a touchdown.

“We had problems on the line,” Niemann said. “We had issues with commitment levels and we were never stocked with depth. When those situations happen-and we lost a couple of key linemen-it really took a toll on what we wanted to do in the backfield.”

Glenn will have a new quarterback as senior Angel Rochin, who was a running back last season, will compete with junior Eric Galindo, younger brother of Deven Galindo, who was the team’s signal caller in 2012. While both are new at the position, the key will be up front where the Eagles will field an offensive line of four seniors, but all of them got little to no time there last season.

“[Eric] has more form and technique,” Niemann said. “He makes great decisions. But the dimension that Angel brings in is that running dimension. He has that speed and makes good decisions in terms of what he needs to do with the ball right then and there.”

Senior Salvador Trejo will hold down the left tackle position and to his right will be sophomore left guard George Perez, senior center William Ruano, senior right guard Alex Jasso and senior right tackle Luis Figueroa. With Rochin moving to quarterback, the top candidates for running back will be juniors Jamal Burns and Dominick Enriquez and sophomore Elijiah Zendejas. Niemann said the key will be to keep the sophomore group of running backs together and if that can happen, then he says the future looks bright. On the receiving end will be seniors Felipe Jimenez, Jesse Miras, Steven Morones and tight end Anthony Uribe.

“I think we made improvements in terms of what we have skill-wise and how we’re going to allow them to move around a little bit more,” Niemann said. “Our scheme has kind of been revamped a little bit to allow the offensive guys to get in the way.”

DEFENSE

Just as the offense took a few steps back last season, so did the defense, which allowed 405 points, including the final six games of more than 40 points. The low point of the season came in the fourth game when the Eagles were pummeled by Laguna Beach 74-19.

Niemann believes this season’s defense will be better with a line consisting of senior Ryan Murillo, juniors Carlos Jurado and Moises Rodriguez and Uribe. The secondary will be anchored by junior cornerback Louie Chavez, Enriquez, who will be a strong safety and Rochin, who will play free safety. The top linebackers will be Galindo, Jasso and Morones.

“I think the front seven is going to be a little bit more dynamic,” Niemann said. “Our linebacker corps is going to be great. We have a new coach taking care of that. Robert Lopez is doing a great job with those guys. With Uribe anchoring defensive end, I think he’s going to keep those guys in line.”

SCHEDULE

Last season, the Eagles wore their blue uniforms six times and did not play a road game until Oct. 12. This season, it’s nearly the opposite as Glenn will play four straight road games and will not set foot on Excelsior Stadium until its league opener on Oct. 4 against La Mirada. On paper, the first two games seem winnable. Glenn has an 8-8 mark against Cerritos since 1998 including last season’s forfeit victory. But the team is also 1-47 against Bellflower, La Mirada and Mayfair during that time and has lost 10 straight games to its city rivals to the west. Homecoming will be against Artesia, an opponent Glenn has defeated twice in the past three seasons. The last time Glenn hosted Artesia on homecoming night (2009), the lights on the scoreboard nearly blew out as the Pioneers escaped with a 44-40 victory.

“If we can go 4-6 or 5-5, I think we’ve done very, very well,” Niemann said. “If we can get over the hump and can teach these young kids how to be very, very aggressive and get them to run the schemes well enough so that in the next few years they can build on whatever…it just depends on how fast those sophomores and young guys up front mature.”

NORWALK LANCERS

9-3 overall last season, 4-2 in the Suburban League, tied for second place, 38-23 overall last five seasons

Head coach: Jesse Ceniceros (sixth season, 38-23)

Lost 14 seniors out of 40 from 2012 opening day roster

Last time missed the playoffs: 2006

2013 schedule

Aug. 30        Cabrillo (3-8 overall last season)

Sept. 6 @     Diamond Bar (4-6)

Sept. 13       Warren (0-10)

Sept. 20 @   Whittier (3-7)

Sept. 26 @   Cerritos (0-10)

Oct. 4           BYE

Oct. 11 (HC) Artesia (4-6)

Oct. 18 @    Bellflower (6-5)

Oct. 25         John Glenn (2-8)

Nov. 1 @      La Mirada (10-2)

Nov. 8          Mayfair (4-6)

For the third time under the watch of head coach Jesse Ceniceros, the Lancers came close to a Suburban League championship but had to settle for at least a share of second place. Norwalk went from three wins in 2011 to nine victories last season but fell to eventual Southeast Division champs Downey by three points, 45-42, in the second round. All three losses came by a combined 10 points, making this season’s squad the hungriest it has been in quite some time to go deeper in the playoffs.

“Every year that we come out, we’re shooting for a league championship,” Ceniceros said. “That’s something that we’ve instilled in the kids. Their yearly goal should be going to the finals or that’s it. There’s no other choice. Some coaches will look at [9-3] as a successful season because the year before we only won three games. But again, when our yearly goals are to be in that championship game, it’s really not that successful. But there were a lot of positives that came out of [last season].”

OFFENSE

The offense did what it has been doing a lot of since Ceniceros took over in 2008-score and score some more. The team piled up 490 points and put its opponents away before halftime, scoring 282 points in the first half. The Lancers eclipsed the 40-point mark five times and went over 50 points three more times.

The patented double wing offense will once again be led by senior wingback Rashaad Penny, who amassed nearly 1,900 yards on the ground and scored 37 total touchdowns. But if opponents have ideas to stop Penny in his tracks, the Lancers will gladly give the ball to senior fullback Xavier Fuery, senior wingback Matthew Ortega, junior wingback Ryan McDowell and sophomores Tyrant Davis and Chris Walker, the latter being the star running back on the freshmen team last season. Also in the mix is Jacob Carr.

“I think we’re blessed to have a young man by the name of Rashaad Penny,” Ceniceros said. “That really helps out things. But the thing about it is a lot of people don’t understand that we have a really good, hard working group of young boys who have really worked hard in the offseason.”

Ceniceros added that what people don’t know about Penny is that he can also punt and kick field goals and that Penny reminds him of a Jim Thorpe-type player.

At quarterback will be senior Angel Diaz with Ortega backing him up. Senior Louie Hernandez and juniors Esteban Rosiles and Chandler Roth will be the tight ends. The offensive line is one of the best, if not the best in the league, and will be handled by junior left tackle Dillon Faamatau, senior left guard Aaron Armendarez, junior center Gabriel Silva, senior right guard Adam Gonzalez and junior right tackle Rodrigo Sanchez, a tight end in 2012.

Ceniceros stated that he wasn’t surprised at the success of his sophomores last season because they had a great offseason in workouts. The Lancers are also deeper at wingback this season than last season.

“I think we’re bigger and we’re stronger,” Ceniceros said. “From what I’ve seen with Penny, he’s as explosive of any football player I’ve seen and he’s doing stuff out there that I don’t see other kids doing. If he stays healthy, he’s going to have a tremendous season.”

DEFENSE

If you think the offense is explosive, just wait until you get the see the defense. Again, there is so much depth that at the linebacker spot, six players are fighting for the two inside spots. Gonzalez and Ortega will man the outside spots while Armendarez is slated to be in the middle. Also in the mix will be seniors Jose Abrina, a transfer from Hoover High School in Glendale, and Daryl Seals.

Ceniceros thinks he has the best secondary the league has seen in a long time with senior Daniel Moreno and Penny as the top cornerbacks, senior safety Dante Foster, Carr and McDowell. The line will be occupied by Faamatau, who might be the best lineman in the area as a junior, according to his coach, Fuery, Hernandez, Rosiles and Sanchez.

SCHEDULE

In 2009, the Lancers went 11-2, losing only to La Mirada and Garden Grove in the semifinals. The 2012 schedule is set up, at least on paper, to give Norwalk double digit victories. Norwalk won’t play a team that had a winning record last season until Oct. 18, which will be a revenge game as Bellflower spoiled Norwalk’s homecoming festivities in a 45-44 overtime win. But Ceniceros is very far from looking way ahead.

“I look at a Cabrillo team and I know they’re always going to have talent,” Ceniceros said. “They’re always going to have some size. You have a Diamond Bar team that also played us pretty well, I felt. They have a lot of talent coming back. A lot of people have said [our schedule] looks very formidable but from my point of view, if we have turnovers and if we don’t play our type of game, I see we can be 0-2 going into the third game.”

When Norwalk shutout Mayfair 35-0 last season, it was only the second time since 1998 that the team had defeated the Monsoons. Norwalk has lost back to back overtime games to Bellflower and the homecoming game will be against Artesia for the seventh time in 15 seasons. But the big game will be on Nov. 1 when Lancers return to Goodman Stadium for the second straight season, hoping to avenge a 29-23 loss in which the visitors were held to just three points in the second half. La Mirada has won 14 meetings with Norwalk since 1998.

“My first year coming in, I had no clue about the dominance that La Mirada had over Norwalk,” Ceniceros said.”We went in [my] first year and the kids were confident and believed in themselves and we beat La Mirada. This team that we have is a lot like the 2008 team where they just need to believe.”

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