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WEEK SIX FOOTBALL Artesia’s Cristian Rodriguez handles Cerritos on offense and defense

By Loren Kopff

 

Artesia’s football team, on the heels of a three-game losing streak, needed something to turn around its season and Cristian Rodriguez was the remedy the Pioneers were looking for. The senior running back and defensive back, who broke his right leg in the third game of last season and missed the final seven games, scored three touchdowns and recovered three fumbles as the visiting Pioneers knocked off Cerritos 31-14 last Friday night at Hanford Rants Stadium.

Rodriguez picked up 76 yards on six carries, caught a pair of passes for another 87 yards and also recorded four tackles to go along with his three fumble recoveries. He would also cause two more fumbles but the Dons quickly pounced on the pigskin to retain possession.

“He’s had a knack for that in his years at Artesia on defense, just having the skill to go in there and get the ball from guys,” said Artesia head coach Joe Veach. “We haven’t seen him much this year [on defense] and tonight he decided to dust it off. But he played great.”

“It means a lot,” Rodriguez said of his performance. “I’m glad [my injury] happened last year and not by senior year because now I have one more year to finish it off.”

Artesia (3-4 overall, 1-2 in the Suburban League) scored on the first play of the game when senior running back Vincent Brown took the ball from under center and raced 80 yards for a touchdown. Cerritos responded by holding the ball for nearly nine minutes and finished off the drive when senior quarterback Ki’Jon Washington cashed in from six yards out. On the drive, the Dons would be true on three fourth down conversions, a theme that the Artesia’s defense would see a lot for most of the game.

With three seconds left in the quarter, senior kicker Ezekial Diaz booted a 36-yard field goal, his longest of two field goals made this season and the Pioneers never looked back. Both teams would turn the ball over three times in a span of 53 seconds on four plays early in the second quarter with Rodriguez recovering two of his fumbles. But it was still a four-point game until Rodriguez went around the left side for a 10-yard score with 1:11 remaining in the half.

Cerritos (0-5, 0-2) held the ball for over 16 minutes in the first half and picked up 170 yards on the ground, a cause for Veach to be concerned about his defense not being able to get off the field.

But Rodriguez put Veach’s mind at ease early in the third quarter when he scored on Artesia’s second play from scrimmage of the second half as he went up the middle for 45 yards. Then he recovered fumble number three at the Artesia 16-yard line, thwarting a Cerritos drive that lasted 5:41. He would then catch a 33-yard pass from senior quarterback Jimmy Rodriguez and two plays after that, hauled in a 54-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Rodriguez with 2:30 left in the third quarter to end Artesia’s scoring.

“They’re in our district, so we knew we had to win,” Cristian Rodriguez said. “They had a close game [against Gahr], which they lost. We wanted to come out here and beat them.”

Brown quietly led the Pioneer with 125 yards on eight carries while senior wide receiver Noel Guzman caught three passes for 40 yards as Jimmy Rodriguez completed five of 10 passes for 127 yards. On defense, junior running back Taylor Davis led everyone with 11 and a half tackles, most of them on Cerritos senior running back Kory Boyd. Senior linebacker Devon King and senior defensive back Jaydon Logan each added seven tackles.

“Taylor has had an up and down season for us,” Veach said. “He’s played a lot and has sat down a lot and we kind of go back and forth with him. I think he played really well tonight. He was in there making a lot plays and he played very physical. Against these teams, you have to play physical and that’s what we told the kids coming in.”

Boyd would have a game-high 135 yards on 22 carries while junior Isaiah Harris added 76 yards on 12 carries and Washington another 48 yards on 10 touches. Junior running back Manolo Cevallos scored on a one-yard run early in the final stanza and finished with 25 yards on 10 carries. The Dons, who visit Bellflower tonight, racked up 331 yards on the ground and held the ball for over 34 minutes.

Artesia returns home tonight to face Norwalk, another team that runs the double-wing offense. The Pioneers have lost five straight to the Lancers but put up 24 points against them two seasons ago, the last time Artesia hosted Norwalk.

“It’s just important for our guys to read their keys…so now we’re ready for Norwalk,” Cristian Rodriguez said of defending the double-wing offense. “It’s a little different, but we’re a little bit ahead [of the game].”

“We took a couple of tough losses in there,” Veach said of the recent three-game losing streak. “Gahr was a tough one because I thought we were right there with them, leading in the fourth quarter. The same thing with Mayfair; we were tied at the half and should have been up at the half. And then we just got blasted in the third quarter.

“The mood hasn’t been great,” He continued. “Obviously we’re not happy but the kids did a good job this week of coming in and having a good week of practice. It’s interesting whenever we play these double-wing teams because you have to implement a defense or coach them up on a certain thing that you really never get to do the rest of the season. It’s good that we get Norwalk and Cerritos back to back.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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