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WEEK THREE FOOTBALL
By Loren Kopff
Gahr High’s football team once again will reign supreme within the ABC Unified School District and will keep possession of that coveted Silver Milk Barrel that goes to the winner of the three district high schools that field football teams. The Gladiators rushed for nearly 400 yards and had no problems with Artesia in a 28-9 victory last Friday night at Atkins Stadium.
In claiming the district title for the second straight season and sixth in the past seven seasons Gahr has now owned the district 15 times while Artesia and Cerritos have each hoisted the Silver Milk Barrel 14 times.
“That’s the whole talk about this thing,” said Gahr head coach Greg Marshall. “For us, this is the first part of our season. Now that’s over and we have to get ready for league. It’s a major goal of ours; that’s our goal every year, regardless. It’s our first goal of the season. The next is to prepare ourselves to try to get a playoff spot.”
Gahr (2-2) wasted little time in getting on the board as junior Brandon Marks, the fourth player to rush the ball in the seven-play drive, scored from a yard out a little over two minutes into the game. Later in the opening quarter and following a fumble recovery, the Pioneers engineered what would be their longest drive of the game which resulted in a 27-yard field goal from junior Francisco Sierra. He had missed from 35 yards but a pair of Gahr penalties gave him new life.
Artesia would immediately get the ball right back and took a 9-7 lead following a 40-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Calvin Stitt to junior wide receiver Rian Hughing with 8:27 remaining in the half. But from that point on, it would be all Gahr. Following the Artesia touchdown, the Gladiators ran four plays totaling 95 yards which ended when Marks cashed in from 25 yards with 7:29 left in the half.
“We got lucky on the deep ball where we were able to break the pocket and get outside and throw the ball downfield and make a play,” said Artesia head coach Joe Veach of his team’s touchdown. “That was a good play for us.”
After the Pioneers (1-3) were held on downs, Gahr senior quarterback Justin Garrett got loose down the right sideline and scored on a 64-yard run with 2:41 remaining in the first half. Garrett would lead everyone with 176 yards on 12 carries with most of that coming in the first half. He would also complete five of seven passes for 86 yards.
“He’s becoming comfortable because he’s never played quarterback before,” Marshall said. “He really wants it bad. It’s his senior year and he’s really focused. We still have to figure out if he can throw the ball because when we get to league, we’re not just going to run it like [the past two weeks].”
Artesia junior Jordan Benoit was doing all he could to keep his team in the game. The 5’2”, 128-poind running back was getting virtually every play in the half, as well as in the game. By halftime, Benoit had already picked up 119 yards on 21 carries and would finish the contest with 153 yards on 36 touches.
“Jordan is our best offensive player and he’s one of our toughest kids,” Veach said. “And he’s five foot nothing and a hundred and nothing. I told him after the game he played a hell of a game, because he’s running in there between the tackles with linebackers and linemen…they have defensive tackles who are 6’ 3”, 300 pounds. I have so much respect for Jordan.”
After a scoreless third quarter, any chance of the Pioneers getting back into the game were dashed when on second and 35 from the Gahr 40-yard line, Garrett tossed a screen pass to senior wide receiver De’Jah Pickett who went 60 yards up the middle of the field for the final score.
Pickett would also add 54 yards on four carries while sophomore running back Christian Shakir-Ricks added 42 yards on six carries. The Gladiators would carry the ball 34 times.
“A lot of these guys play defense but it really doesn’t matter because if one guy is tired, another guy goes in,” Marshall said. “We don’t lose anything, so it’s really critical that we’re able to do that.”
“They were playing tonight at a different speed than we were,” Veach said. “The second those guys went in motion, the second the ball hit them in the hands, they were at a different speed than us. It’s tough to win a game when you’re two steps behind everything.”
The nine points Artesia scored were the fewest against the Gladiators since 2010 when Gahr blasted the Pioneers 54-6. In fact, since 1998, Artesia has failed to score at least 10 points against Gahr five times. This was Gahr’s first win at Atkins Stadium since 2011. Now, the Gladiators, who have yielded 17 points the past two weeks, will wrap up its non league portion of the schedule when they host Fullerton tonight at Rants Stadium. Last season, the Indians got past Gahr 41-33 and dating back to 2003, have won two straight games over Gahr.
“It’s like playing a league school,” Marshall said. “We’ll see who we are, really. They’re a step above Cal [High] and they’re probably a step above Mayfair. If we improve, we’ll be in the game. If we play clean, we have a chance to win the game.”
As for Artesia, no one else was able to run besides Benoit as Stitt was sacked three times for a combined loss of 25 yards and was unable to pick up positive yardage in five other carries. Sophomore running back Xavier Yoakum picked up a mere three yards on three carries as the only other ball carrier.
“We were able to run the ball a little bit,” Veach said. “We changed some things up this week. We really wanted to run the ball so we could try to control the clock and move the chains. I think we were able to that a little bit in the first half.”
Artesia began Suburban League action on Sept. 24 with a road game at winless John Glenn. The Pioneers have won three straight games against the Eagles, outscoring them 135-28 during that time, and 10 of the last 12 meetings. Artesia will also look to win its league opener for the first time since 2007 when it posted a 35-21 win against Cerritos.
“Everybody is 0-0; everyone has the same record in league,” Veach said. “We get to open on Thursday night and we get to be the first team to play a league game. Hopefully we can get a victory and be in first place in league at least for a night by ourselves. That’s our goal.”
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