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By Loren Kopff
For the second straight week, Norwalk High’s football team was facing a favorable Suburban League opponent in Mayfair High with league title implications of the line. Already needing a win to stay on the heels of front-running La Mirada High, the Lancers faded in the second half, gaining 80 yards in the final 24 minutes and eventually fell to the Monsoons 35-13 last Friday night at Excelsior Stadium.
After just two games played in league action with four to go, Norwalk first-year head coach Otis Harrison now faces the task of getting his team to at least third place, which would guarantee the Lancers of an automatic postseason berth. Norwalk lost for the fifth straight time after an opening season win against Bell and has scored 27 points in the last three games combined.
The Lancers looked like the Lancers of old on the game’s first drive as the hosts scored on a 30-yard run from senior running back Chris Walker nearly four minutes into the game. But the Monsoons (4-2 overall, 2-0 in league) countered that score with a 20-yard strike from Isaiah Jackson to Jonathan Wright less than a minute later.
Norwalk would run out the final 7:35 of the first quarter but was forced to punt on the second play of the second quarter after it had reached the nine-yard line. A holding penalty on first and goal moved the team back to the 19-yard line. After a running play and a false start penalty, senior quarterback Ausencio Navarro was sacked for a 14-yard loss to put Norwalk at the Mayfair 38-yard line. Following an incomplete pass, sophomore Josh Martinez tried to pass on a fake punt attempt but was unsuccessful in connecting with sophomore wide receiver Marqure Finley.
“The offense went in the other direction,” Harrison said. “We’re sitting there on first and goal and I believe we end up 35 yards away from the goal line. It’s a bad look on my perspective and it just went bad.”
The Monsoons took advantage of the great field position and on the sixth play of the drive, Jackson found Joe Emmsley for a 25-yard score. But on the ensuing kickoff, sophomore wingback Andrew Navarro caught the ball at the 12-yard line and ran it to the Mayfair 40-yard line where he pitched the ball back to Walker who matriculated the remaining 60 yards for a touchdown. However, the extra point would be no good, leaving the Lancers a point down.
“It was a little pitch back that [Walker] suggested and executed,” Harrison said. “Those are some bright spots, those are some memorable moments.”
From that point on, the high octane offense that many have been accustomed to for the past seven seasons went flat. The Lancers would gain minus one yard over the final 9:07 of the first half after the kickoff return, 25 yards in the third quarter and 55 more in the fourth quarter. In fact, Norwalk would not pick up its next first down until late in the third quarter. But that drive stalled on the second play of the final stanza when Ausencio Navarro was picked off by Emmsley.
Mayfair went up 21-13 with 28.2 seconds left in the first half on a six-yard run from Jackson. With 3:02 remaining in the third quarter, he added a one-yard run and closed out the scoring three and a half minutes into the fourth quarter with a 31-yard pass to Jonathan Orizaba. Jackson was almost a one-man show for the Monsoons, completing 12 of 17 passes for 210 yards and picking up another 47 yards on eight carries.
“He’s a great player,” Harrison said. “At some point it wasn’t what we did as much as what he did. He’s been that way all the time and he’s been a solid, solid, solid football player.”
Walker led the Lancers with 130 yards on 24 carries and senior running back Kirk Brown added another 66 yards on 13 carries. However, Ausencio Navarro would be sacked four times for losses totaling 45 yards. Senior lineman Tyler Iosua and sophomore outside linebacker Daniel Faamatau each had five tackles while sophomore safety Billy Joseph Moore and Andrew Navarro both had four tackles. But if it wasn’t the offense that slowed down the Lancers, then it was the 12 penalties for 100 yards, most of which were of the false start variety.
“We’ve never had that many penalties before,” Harrison said. “We didn’t have one penalty in the first game and we had no penalties in the second game. And now it seems like every other play we have a penalty. I’m having a hard time understanding what is wrong.”
Now with a league title almost out of sight as La Mirada and Mayfair are both 2-0 in the circuit, the Lancers can set their sights on just getting to the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Southeast Division playoffs for the ninth straight season and it begins with a road game against Cerritos High at Hanford Rants Stadium on the Gahr High campus tonight. Cerritos enters the game at 0-4 and has not played since falling to Mayfair 41-12 on Sept. 25. Norwalk has won 10 straight over the Dons, one of which was a forfeit victory. In the last five games played on the field, Norwalk has outscored Cerritos 269-23.
“I’m going to be positive because there’s no need to be beaten down,” Harrison said. “By now, the guys care about winning and they wanted to win. We’ll just move on from here.
“We still have something to play for,” Harrison later added. “If that doesn’t want to make you get up and go, then nothing will and we still have something to play for. That’s all I can say.”
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