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By Loren Kopff
LA MIRADA-Jordan Benoit and the rest of his Artesia High teammates opened Suburban League play in grand fashion. The 5’ 2”, 128 lb. junior running back rushed for 345 yards on 22 carries and scored five touchdowns, none of which were fewer than 46 yards, as the Pioneers breezed past John Glenn High 52-25 last Thursday night at Goodman Stadium.
Benoit touched the ball for all but 10 plays the Pioneers would have on the night and his five rushing touchdowns were the most since Lequan Lewis reached the end zone five times at Cerritos on Nov. 9, 2006. The next season, Terrance Woods had four rushing touchdowns against Cerritos on Sept. 29, 2007.
“Jordan ran well,” said Artesia head coach Joe Veach. “He’s a really good athlete and right now, he’s our best option. So we’re going to keep feeding him the ball. We’re going to have to slowly get other guys the ball because I think even [opponents] have started to see that’s where the ball is going.”
Benoit scored the game’s first touchdown on a 55-yard run almost four minutes into the game. But the Eagles answered back and on the fifth play of their initial drive, junior Miguel Ochoa caught a four-yard pass from senior quarterback Hector Sanchez. The highlight of the drive came when Sanchez ran down the right sideline for a 68-yard gain on second down.
Artesia (2-3 overall, 1-0 in league) took the lead for good when senior quarterback Todd Fahey cashed in from two yards out late in the first quarter. However, Glenn engineered a nine-play, 67-yard drive that ended when Ochoa sneaked in from a yard out. The two-point conversion would fail, which would be key the rest of the half.
A short kickoff would be exactly what Benoit needed because on the first play, he busted loose for a 58-yard run to put the visitors up 21-12. Then a 13-play drive that was hampered by two penalties and a quarterback sack by senior defensive back Taylor Davis for 10 yards hampered Glenn’s chances to get back in the game. It went from bad to worse for the Eagles when a 31-yard field goal attempt from senior Hector Del Carmen was blocked by senior linebacker Nick Garcia on the last play of the half.
“On a team that’s young like this, they get into a little fight,” said John Glenn head coach Vince Lobendahn. “That’s the area I’m trying to teach them, where we need to punch back. We’ve got to have all hands on deck when we’re protecting for a PAT or we’re recovering a punt. Those are the areas that they don’t realize are as important as a defensive stand or an offensive play.”
Despite the Pioneers holding a nine-point lead at the break, they were clearly being outgained by the Eagles in the first half. Glenn (0-5, 0-1) had already picked up 240 yards on the ground on 42 carries, most by Sanchez and senior running back Elijah Cendejas. Sanchez had picked up 92 yards, most coming by deception when the Artesia defense thought Cendejas would get the ball.
“They do a good job of riding the option and we didn’t do a good job,” Veach said. “When you play a team like [Glenn], it’s assignment football. That’s what I’ve always been taught. You have to dive back, you’ve got the quarterback and you’ve got the pitchman. And if you stick to your assignments, you can make the plays. We didn’t do a good job at that tonight at all. Our assignments were horrible.”
Any chance of Glenn getting back in the game was dashed when it was held on downs 97 seconds into the second half. Artesia responded with a 37-yard field goal from junior Frankie Sierra. The dagger in heart came on the fifth play of the ensuing possession when Garcia picked off Sanchez and returned the ball 32 yards for a touchdown and a 31-12 lead with 6:42 left in the third quarter. He would lead the Pioneers with eight and a half tackles.
“Nick started playing football 13 months ago when he transferred to us,” Veach said. “He’s a really smart kid and he just gives 100 percent, 100 miles an hour every time he gets on the field, whether it’s practice or games. He just tries hard and that’s why we like him so much. It’s good to see guys like that have success.”
Artesia would run five plays in the fourth quarter with Benoit scoring on runs of 50, 46 and 64 runs. The rest of the team would combine for 18 yards on six carries. Meanwhile, Sanchez (202 yards, 35 carries) would score from 12 yards out with 1:45 left in the third quarter and tacked on a six-yard score with 6:08 remaining in the game to complete Glenn’s scoring. Cendejas added another 101 yards on 20 carries but the story of the night was the ineffectiveness of Glenn’s defense, which has now yielded 265 points halfway through the season. In addition, the 52 points Artesia scored were its most against Glenn since posting a 51-0 victory on Nov. 4, 2005 at Glenn.
“The defensive window has been an issue for me since we started, and I knew they were young,” Lobendahn said. “Assignments and getting outside on the contain, who’s got to roll over when we’re going to cover something…they’re young. There were some backfield plays in this game that we hadn’t had. There were some punts and we haven’t had punts [this season]. We’re trying to find that identity. We have older kids to come back that hadn’t been here.”
Glenn will visit Bellflower High tonight at Ron Yary Stadium while the Pioneers have the daunting task of pulling off the upset against La Mirada High tonight at Atkins Stadium. Since 1998, Artesia is 2-14 against the Matadores with both wins coming at Goodman Stadium. The last time Artesia beat La Mirada was on Oct. 26, 2007, a 21-20 triumph.
“I told the kids we have to be better next week,” Veach said. “I don’t think we played particularly well, especially in the first half. But we got the win and we’ll take a win any way we can get it. We’re 1-0 and that’s what we were shooting for. We showed up here and we accomplished what we wanted to.”
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