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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
One thing was for certain when John Glenn High hosted longtime city rival Norwalk High in the annual tilt for the Mayor’s Trophy. Glenn was determined not to get blown out, shutout or play under running clock conditions in the fourth quarter.
While the first half was one of the best played in this rivalry in a long time, Norwalk was also determined to make it 14 in a row over the Eagles, and that’s what it did. The Lancers scored on all six of their second half possessions and turned a tied game at the half into a 46-14 victory. It was the most points Glenn had scored against Norwalk since losing 56-27 in 2011 and the 46 points scored were the fewest any Norwalk team had scored against Glenn since 2009, a narrow 42-35 win. Norwalk now leads the all-time series 36-16.
“We’ve been in pursuit of a good game offensively, defensively and in special teams the whole year,” said Norwalk head coach Otis Harrison. “And we have not quite put it all together. Last week [against Dominguez High] I think we left some points out there. I think the guys have worked too hard not to represent their true talent to the fullest. That’s just all I’m hoping for with these guys, that they can see that they can really be a very good team. I think you saw some of that in the second half.”
Glenn (1-4 overall, 0-1 in the Suburban League) had all of the momentum early on as junior William Keith recovered a muffed punt 81 seconds into the game, then junior defensive end Anthony Lovett recovered a fumble with 2:00 left in the stanza that after senior defensive tackle Alfredo Hernandez stripped the ball from Norwalk sophomore quarterback Brionne Penny.
The Eagles couldn’t do anything with those two opportunities and when the Lancers got the ball back, senior running back Jordan Thomas put the visitors up with a 13-yard run. Both teams would turn the ball over once in the second quarter but Glenn was able to tie the contest when sophomore wide receiver Keith Shanklin hauled in a 30-yard pass from sophomore quarterback David Sanchez with 23.4 seconds left in the half.
“There was excitement but it’s eventually the weight of [Norwalk’s] size,” said Glenn head coach Vince Lobendahn of the tight first half. “Their run game is exceptional when they try to continue to go through…it’s just heavy. We did our best. We used what weapons we had. We used the game plan we had and the kids executed it. It’s just in the end, in the second, we just couldn’t carry out all of the weight and the pounding.”
The tempo of the game would immediately change once the second half started, which benefited Norwalk. Almost four minutes in, Penny threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Marquiz Finley. After the Eagles punted following an eight-play drive, it took two plays for the Lancers (4-1, 1-0) to go up 20-7 when junior slot back Andrew Navarro scored the first of his two touchdowns, this one a 46-yard scamper.
But the Eagles refused to go away quietly and pulled to within six points when Sanchez launched a 62-yard scoring strike to junior Carlos Manriquez. But on the first play following the ensuing kickoff, senior running back Raylind Butler scored on a 45-yard run to give Norwalk a 26-14 lead.
“It’s a rival game, so everybody is playing their absolute best,” Harrison said. “We’re definitely going to get their absolute best. We just had to hang in there. I would say at that point, I’m just looking to see if we’re doing things the right way. We can’t always control whether it will be a positive result or a negative result. So I just thought it was a good game between two teams playing hard.”
Three plays into the fourth quarter, Norwalk junior linebacker Brandon Barrett picked off Sanchez, which would be the beginning of the end as far as the Eagles were concerned. Four plays later, Navarro scored from 21 yards out. Following a three and out, the Lancers scored again when junior running back Daniel Faamatau scored on a 14-yard run. Then Butler ended the game’s scoring with a five-yard run with 3:14 left in the game.
While the Lancers were scoring on every second half possession, their defense forced a pair of three and outs in the fourth quarter.
“The edge that they had was exceptional, and we knew that,” Lobendahn said. “We did our best to get outside the edge and have it contained. But we knew if they got outside the box they’re in a different gear that a lot of our guys weren’t going to be able to get to, even coming through the alley as we want to come through with the safeties.”
“We were sluggish a little bit because of the other team,” Harrison said. “You have to give credit to John Glenn. They played very, very, very hard. So, we’re going to take this win and we’re going to feel proud about ourselves because I would love to name all the things we did wrong. But you have to give credit to John Glenn because they came to play and it showed.”
Norwalk, which gained 359 yards on the ground in last season’s 56-0 win over the Eagles, rushed for 418 yards in this game, led by Navarro’s 179 yards on 19 carries. Butler picked up another 73 yards on eight carries while Faamatau chipped in with another 51 yards on five touches.
“It’s interesting because he was a running back in Pop Warner,” Harrison said of Navarro. “But he was so small [and] he broke his arm two or three times as a freshman. The guy is always willing to run the ball. I told him, ‘you need to get to about 170 [pounds] and you can go back to running the football’. So he came in this year at about 172 and got the weight up because if we lose him on offense, we also lose a starter on defense.”
Penny was four of 10 for 58 yards through the air while on defense, Butler had five tackles and Navarro added another four and a half tackles plus an interception. Thomas was also a force with four sacks totaling 41 yards in losses. The Lancers will face defending state champion La Mirada High tonight.
For Glenn, it may have found its quarterback for the next two and a half seasons as Sanchez kept his team in the game as much as he could, completing 18 of 38 passes for 256 yards. It’s the most yards a Glenn quarterback has thrown against Norwalk since 2011 when Anthony Escobar was 19 of 39 for 252 yards and tossed four touchdowns.
“I have a wonderful quarterback; he’s a great, young man who is committed to the school,” Lobendahn said. “But I wish I had more of the players to help surround him with. I knew he could do a lot of things. He was able to feed off of what we have given him.”
“Oh my gosh, oh my gosh,” Harrison exhaled when he heard Sanchez’ statistics. “Somebody has to offer that guy a scholarship. That guy is incredible. He never gave up; what a warrior. I’m proud to see he didn’t get seriously injured and I hope to see him play on Saturdays. I believe that’s going to happen.”
Manriquez caught five passes for 113 yards while Glenn couldn’t get anything established on the ground, gaining just 13 yards on 26 carries. Junior cornerback Chris Munoz led the Eagles on defense with five tackles while Lovett added four tackles. Glenn will visit Artesia High tonight.
“I told the kids that I was excited that they wanted to come out here and do it,” Lobendahn said. “It was a wonderful first half and in the second, it was heartbreaking for all of us as they started to be successful. I hope others start to see that we’re trying to put a stamp out there. We’re not that old John Glenn. We’re putting a lot of time into these young men. We’re trying to change the culture.”
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