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WEEK SIX FOOTBALL: Norwalk jumps all over Artesia fast, remains undefeated

By Loren Kopff

Everything was coming up aces for Norwalk’s football team last Friday night on its homecoming game against Artesia with a Monte Carlo theme. The Lancers took advantage of two straight turnovers within the first three minutes of the game and scored on seven straight possessions as they routed the Pioneers 62-3.

The California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Southeast Division’s top ranked team for the sixth consecutive week improved to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the Suburban League. In addition, Norwalk has not allowed a touchdown in 12 straight quarters and only four all season long.

“Our boys are playing pretty good football right now,” said Norwalk head coach Jesse Ceniceros. “I’m just real proud of them. It’s kind of hard when you have a game like this [when] you get so far up so early. You can kind of have a letdown. But they stood in there and played.”

Senior wingback Rashaad Penny put the Lancers on the board 2:35 into the game on a 60-yard touchdown run. Then senior linebacker Matthew Ortega recovered a fumble in the end zone on Artesia’s first play from scrimmage. Following the kickoff, junior free safety Jacob Carr intercepted a pass at the 20-yard line and two plays later, he threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Dillon Faamatau for a 21-0 lead just four minutes into the game.

After a bad snap on a punt gave the hosts the ball at the Artesia 23-yard line, the Lancers needed four plays to add to its lead as Penny cashed in from five yards out. Artesia would get three first downs in the first half and did not get past the Norwalk 46-yard line. The Pioneers would begin their first half drives at their own five, five, 13, 23, 20, 13 and 24-yard lines.

“We can’t start drives inside our five,” said Artesia head coach Joe Veach. “I think we did that the first two times we had the ball. We can’t turn the ball over; we did that. We didn’t perform at any level of the game at all.”

Penny would score on a 71-yard run in the second quarter sandwiched in between touchdown runs of four and 23 yards from junior wingback Ryan McDowell as Norwalk led 49-0 at the half. McDowell would add a two-yard score with 5:29 left in the third quarter and senior Dante Foster returned a kickoff 90 yards in the fourth quarter for Norwalk’s final touchdown.

The lone Artesia points came prior to Foster’s return as junior Ezekial Diaz booted a 33-yard field goal. The 62 points scored and its and the 59-point margin of victory are the most Norwalk has recorded against Artesia in at least 15 years. Norwalk also held Artesia to under 10 points in the series for the first time since 2001 when the Pioneers posted a 6-0 win on Norwalk’s homecoming night.

Defensively, Norwalk intercepted Artesia junior quarterback Jimmy Rodriguez three times and stopped the Pioneers behind the line of scrimmage 16 times out of 40 plays.
“When you have a bunch of kids who are eager to learn and they’re ready to play and you have coaches who are giving them the right game plan, good things are going to happen,” Ceniceros said of his defense.

“They’re good; they’re very good,” Veach said. “They’re aggressive. We’re very young in a lot of spots and inexperienced on the line. So we didn’t do a good job of blocking.”

Penny led everyone with 179 yards on seven carries while McDowell added 47 yards on eight carries. The Lancers picked up 303 yards on the ground. Norwalk will visit Bellflower tonight, hoping to avenge consecutive one-point overtime losses to the Buccaneers. A victory over Bellflower would match Norwalk’s best start to a season for the second time since 2009.

“We’re just trying to take one game at a time,” Ceniceros said. “We’re not looking back to last year or the year before that. We did lose close games to them, both times in overtime. But we have a special group of kids this year and they just focus on what the task is at hand on that week. I think we’ll be okay.”

The Pioneers, who were held to 110 yards total offense, will have tonight off before hosting Bellflower on Oct. 25.