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By Loren Kopff
LA MIRADA-Before he could give his postgame speech to his victorious team, Cerritos High first-year head coach Jason Anderson was doused by the obligatory water shower and given several group hugs by members of the Dons. In a battle of winless teams who entered last Thursday night’s contest with a combined 15 losses, it was a touchdown with 2:51 left in the game that decided the contest over John Glenn High.
Senior running back Manolo Cevallos scampered down the left sideline for 39 yards to break a tie and lift previously winless Cerritos to a 22-16 victory at Goodman Stadium. It was the only touchdown of the second half, which was a huge contrast from a turnover-plagued first half. Either way, Cerritos breaks a nine-game losing streak that dates back to last season while the Eagles extend their losing skid to 15 games.
“I know it was my first win and everything, but it’s for these guys,” Anderson said. “We’ve been working on finding the groove and finding our identity. And what’s been the best part about it is the identity we formed is what I’ve always wanted. We’re starting to become a defensive team. The defense is really starting to set the table for our offense.”
Cerritos had second half drives of 12 and eight plays that ended in downs while the Eagles had an 11-play drive that was also stalled on fourth down. But after Glenn punted for the first time in the second half, with 5:03 remaining, Cevallos was knocked back for an eight-yard loss. But junior running back Kaliq Hatcher picked up gains of 15 and four yards before the winning score. The touchdown was redemption for Cevallos, who had previously lost a chance to put Cerritos on the board five minutes into the second quarter. Cevallos led everyone with 144 yards on 16 carries and scored twice.
“He wanted to put it all on his back and take his team to cross that goal line and it backfired on him,” Anderson said. “But coming back, I told him I wasn’t going away from him and I wasn’t benching him. I’m thrilled that he had those final stats.”
John Glenn got on the board nearly three minutes into the contest when sophomore quarterback Gerardo Godoy went in from two yards out. The touchdown came five plays after junior defensive lineman Greg Castillo recovered a fumble after a quarterback sack by sophomore linebacker Randy Thomsen.
Glenn would recover a fumble on the ensuing kickoff but four plays later, Godoy was picked off by sophomore defensive back Ryder Eddy at the two-yard line. However, on the very next play, sophomore defensive end Carlos Manriquez recovered a fumble and scooted in from those two yards out to put the Eagles up 16-0.
But Glenn, which led after the first quarter for just the second time all season, couldn’t maintain its lead as it turned the ball over three times in the first half and once more in the second half.
“A lot of this goes back to the early games when we were getting blown out,” said Glenn head coach Vince Lobendahn. “We had never measured ourselves enough to find out. The kids [got] comfortable, we’re 16 up and I’m seeing it on behaviors-personal foul penalties, fumbles. And I’m going, ‘hey guys, this isn’t how you hold onto wins’.”
Cerritos wasn’t doing much better in the ball handling department in the first half as it fumbled four times and was picked off once. But the Dons defense stood strong and after senior guard Jaylon Holloway recovered a fumble, Hatcher scored on a 10-yard run with 5:32 left in the first half. On the second play of Glenn’s ensuing drive, senior defensive lineman Branden Brown recovered a fumble which led to a Cevallos one-yard run that tied the game with 4:16 left in the half.
“That’s been something we’ve been talking about because we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot a lot of times with little mistakes here and there in the beginning of games and they result in big plays,” Anderson said of the turnovers. “Our mistakes result in big plays for the opposition and it’s been happening so often. That was our fear.
“Looking at our record, yeah we were 0-for but we hadn’t turned the ball over a lot,” Anderson added. “We didn’t fumble a whole lot coming into this game. That was one thing I wasn’t happy to see.”
“We practiced with a lot of fumbles this week and I figured…you practice like you’re going to play,” Lobendahn said. “I saw as many fumbles in this game as I did in my practice this week. So I expected it.”
Glenn had one final chance to either tie the game or even win it after the second Cevallos touchdowns. It had driven to the Cerritos 28-yard line but was pushed back on four straight false start infractions, plus. After a sack, Godoy picked up 15 yards but the game ended on another sack.
Hatcher added 68 yards on 20 carries while Eddy picked up 17 more yards on five touches as the Dons conclude their 2015 season tonight at home against Suburban League champion La Mirada High.
As for the Eagles, who scored in the first half for the first time since Oct. 2, they were led by Godoy and his 77 yards on 24 carries. Godoy was making his first start at quarterback after senior Hector Sanchez got injured a week earlier at Mayfair.
“He really did good,” Lobendahn said. “To manage as a sophomore, I could see a few of the holes he didn’t hit well. He doesn’t mesh well with the option yet. But he did the things I asked from him.”
Senior fullback Elijah Cendejas added 85 yards on 10 carries as the Eagles will visit cross-town city foe Norwalk High tonight at Excelsior Stadium. Glenn has lost 12 straight to Norwalk including last season’s 59-0 drubbing.
“Again, we’re going into a team that looks like that they’re still fairly loaded from that ex-CIF [championship game] program,” Lobendahn said. “I’ve seen enough speed on that team to be threatening on both offense and defense. They still maintain a fair amount of size. Those are some areas that we’re going to have to really prepare for, specifically up front.”
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