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WEEK TWO FOOTBALL
By Loren Kopff
The theme from the Gahr High student body last week in preparation for the annual city rivalry football game with Cerritos last Friday night was a blackout theme. Students were encouraged to wear black, the primary school color for Cerritos.
When the game had concluded, it was Cerritos which was feeling black and blue as the host Gladiators posted another laugher in this rivalry, a 35-8 win. It was the 11th straight Gahr win over the Dons and during that time, only once was the game even close. That came last season, a 24-20 win. Including last Friday night’s game, Gahr has posted six shutouts and yielded less than nine points the other four times since Cerritos last defeated Gahr in 2004.
But unlike last season, Gahr head coach Greg Marshall saw his team handle the tricky double-wing offense that Cerritos has run for the past several seasons. The Gladiators limited the Dons to minus 27 yards on the ground in the first half, which included losses as a result to bad snaps from under center on fourth down when the Dons were in a punting situation. However, Gahr was only able to go into the locker room at halftime with a 21-0 lead.
“It looked like we were going to do the same thing [as last year’s game],” Marshall said. “Last year we had an opportunity to put them away early and we didn’t. We did the same thing in the first half. But they didn’t have [quarterback Ki’Jon
The Gladiators (1-2) didn’t get on the board until 1:55 remained in the first quarter when junior running back Latrell Stearns went in from four yards out. A fumble recovery from junior middle linebacker Theodore Ude on the third play of the ensuing drive gave Gahr possession at the Cerritos 36-yard line and four plays later, senior quarterback Justin Garrett scored from a yard out.
Garrett was making his second start of the season but played the entire game from under center as he was replacing junior signal caller Robert Frutos, who was injured in the Sept. 4 game at Mayfair High. Garrett started the first game of the season at California High but was replaced towards the end of the game’s opening drive.
“It was good that he had some practice this week,” Marshall said. “All of the plays we had him for he hadn’t practiced them [yet]. I thought he did a fair job of getting us in and out with the plays.”
“My first full game under center I would say was probably exciting,” Garrett said. “I’ve experienced many different things that I never thought I would. It just gave me a new aspect of the game; something that I’ve never seen under center.”
After a 30-yard loss on fourth and 12 from the Cerritos 40-yard line, Garrett put the Gladiators comfortably ahead 21-0 on a 10-yard keeper around the left side. He picked up 85 yards on eight carries in the first half while completing three of six passes for 16 yards during that time.
It went from bad to worse for the Dons (0-2) in the second half as they tried to establish its running game. But on the third play of the half, senior quarterback Anthony Beltran was intercepted by senior cornerback De’jah Pickett and four plays later, Pickett caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Garrett.
Following another long loss on a punt attempt, senior running back Erik Rhodes closed out Gahr’s scoring with a 10-yard run. Garrett would lead everyone with 111 yards on 13 carries and passed for another 41 yards. Stearns added 35 yards on five carries while Rhodes chipped in with another 21 yards on three touches.
“From the first quarter against Cal, I learned that it was a very humbling process and that being a quarterback, you have to be the leader and take control,” Garrett said. “You really can’t show emotion. So I felt that first series against Cal helped me play quarterback today and helped my team play well.”
But even more impressive in the game was Gahr’s defense, which kept Cerritos out of the end zone until 5:09 remained in the game. That’s when senior running back Kameron Skiba scored from 15 yards out. In fact, Gahr never touched the ball in the fourth quarter as the Dons recovered an onside kick after the Skiba touchdown.
Skiba led Cerritos with 48 yards on five carries while junior running back Kaliq Hatcher added another 29 yards on 14 carries.
“I thought they did well,” Marshall said. “I was happy with their performance. It kind of reminded me of a couple of years ago when we really got after them. And we didn’t let the pass hurt us.”
“Coach Marshall had been on us very tough about stopping the double-wing because we’re not only preparing for Cerritos, but we’re also preparing for Dominguez because they run the same offense,” Garrett said. “So we really took this game serious and as a tune-up game to fix our defense against the wing-T.”
As it related to the atmosphere in the stands, the game drew probably its biggest attendance in a long time with both sides of the bleachers at least half filled. The vast majority of the fans on the Gahr side were decked out in black shirts, black pants or black dresses.
“It’s kind of weird because we had a rally today and the campus was all over there,” Marshall said. “I’m like, ‘what’s going on’? It was nice.”
“All week on campus, the students have been showing us spirit and supporting us throughout the whole week,” Garrett said. “Even with our rough start to the season, they still have been supporting us and I would really like to thank our students for all they have done.”
“I would say the Class of 2016 did a great job of starting something new,” he later added. “It’s also the 50th anniversary of our school.”
Cerritos will visit Pioneer tonight while the Gladiators will visit Artesia tonight and with a win, will capture the coveted Silver Milk Jug, which goes to the winner of the ABC Unified School District. Gahr defeated Artesia 35-17 last season and has won the trophy five out of the last six seasons and seven out of the last nine seasons.
“Because of that double-wing, I told them there are two things about this game,” Marshall said of the city rivalry. “It’s pride and then, are we tough enough to play them? So regardless of the rivalry, they challenge us to be tough, because if not, they’ll roll three, four or five yards. And the kids get up for it. For us, it’s still their number one goal. We’re never going to lose sight of that.”
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