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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
If the 95-yard opening kickoff for a touchdown by Gahr High junior Chris Shakir-Ricks against Cerritos High wasn’t an eye-opener, then maybe it was the ensuing onside kick recovered by Gladiator senior Dior Denson. In any event, Gahr showed for the 12th straight time that it is still the king of the City of Cerritos.
The Gladiators rolled up 503 yards on the ground, scored on five straight first half possessions and limited Cerritos to just 75 yards in total offense in a 63-8 rout. The Dons have not beaten the Gladiators since Oct. 8, 2004 and during Gahr’s winning streak against Cerritos, the Gladiators have held their city rivals to single digits 11 times.
“We were pretty excited to play tonight,” said Gahr head coach Greg Marshall. “This game, it doesn’t matter. They like playing each other, so you don’t have to say anything to get the kids up. It was good to have [senior running back] Latrell [Stearns] back; that really helps. I think he kind of sets the tone running the football.”
“I felt like we got over that pretty quick,” said Cerritos co-head coach Barry Thomas of the first Gahr touchdown. “Obviously it’s disappointing. We played our game defensively. They made adjustments that we couldn’t readjust to. We can’t adjust for speed, and I feel like that’s what happened.
“Our counter punches weren’t there, and that’s what it was,” he continued. “They’re precise. Last year they were a butcher and this year they’re a surgeon. They know what they’re doing.”
Gahr didn’t do anything on its first possession but when it got the ball back, Stearns cashed in from 10 yards out to make it 14-0 with 4:21 left in the opening quarter. Whenever the Gladiators (3-0) had the ball, they made quick work to get a touchdown. Not including its last touchdown of the night, which was scored under a running clock situation, Gahr’s longest scoring drive lasted 2:36, and that came after junior Miles Johnson scored from three yards out. Before that, Gahr’s scoring drive lasted anywhere from 11 seconds, a 47-yard run from sophomore running back Micah Bernard midway through the second quarter, to 1:47, a seven-yard run from senior Erik Spurlin Renfroe less than three minutes before Bernard’s run.
How good was Gahr? No fewer than 15 players gained positive yardage on the ground, led by Shakir-Ricks (six carries, 82 yards) and Stearns (four carries, 73 yards). The former would also add a 76-yard scoring run late in the first half which made the score 49-0. Coming off the bench, junior Jake Frechette gained 60 yards on four carries while senior Brandon Marks had 35 yards on three touches.
“The second guys are pretty good and pretty fast,” Marshall said. “We’re deep. The only place we’re not deep is on the offensive line and defensive line as usual. But as far as talent-wise, we’re fairly deep. It was good to get those guys the ball. We’re excited to have Brandon Marks score a touchdown. The kids were happy for him and to score a touchdown in the Cerritos game, that’s what high school is all about.”
When Gahr wasn’t doing damage on the ground, senior quarterback Robert Frutos was quite effective through the air. He completed six of seven passes, all in the first quarter, while tossing a 44-yard touchdown pass to Spurlin Renfroe with 2:01 left in the opening stanza and a six-yard score to Bernard with 100 seconds later. However, he would leave the game late in the first half when his right knee, which he has had problems with since last season, went out. His status for tonight’s game against Artesia High is still up in the air. If he can’t start, then Shakir-Ricks will be under center.
Meanwhile, the Gahr defense was simply stifling, not allowing Cerritos to gain a first down until the fourth quarter when the Dons (1-1) scored their lone touchdown. To add insult to injury, the Cerritos offense didn’t cross midfield until its touchdown drive. It did reach the Gahr 24-yard line when senior linebacker Sterling Thompson recovered a fumble late in the first half. But the Dons were stalled there on downs.
“It’s playing really well and we’re still missing Latrell and Isaiah, two starters,” Marshall said of his defense. “You can’t be happier about the defense. I think they’re kind of taking it personal. The guy from the [Long Beach] Press-Telegram talked about Cerritos’ defense and we’re like, ‘what, how about us?’ They had a little chip on their shoulder about that.”
Cerritos would end Gahr’s shutout bid when junior wide receiver Jared Nam caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Colby Nielsen, who completed four of 15 passes for 27 yards.
“His effort and his attitude never changed,” Thomas said of Nielsen. “That’s our motto; effort and attitude is what we preach. He never quit, he never hung his head, and he never blamed anybody. He stands with his head up and he looks for the next play.”
The Gladiators will have a chance to win their third straight Silver Milk Barrel and seventh out of the past eight seasons with a win over Artesia tonight. The Silver Milk Barrel goes to the winner of the ABC Unified School District. The Pioneers are also 3-0 and are led by senior running back Jordan Benoit, who leads the team with 326 yards on the ground and seven touchdowns. Both Artesia and Gahr are 3-0 for the first time in over 19 seasons. The last time Artesia beat Gahr was in 2013, a 29-27 triumph. Before that, the Pioneers posted a 50-35 win over Gahr back in 2008.
“Next week the intensity level is going to go up,” Marshall said. “We have to go to work and see what we have against a better football team. That is what it is. We’re going to have to play quarters and probably without our [starting] quarterback.”
Cerritos, which got past Bolsa Grande High 16-13 on Sept. 2, will try to get back in the win column when it travels to Beverly Hills High tonight.
“We have some things to fix,” Thomas said. “We have to turn some bridges this week and figure out what’s going wrong and look at the film and see what we can fix.”
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