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WEEK SEVEN FOOTBALL King Thomas guides Norwalk to rout of Cerritos, Lancers end two-game slide

Norwalk High senior running back Jordan Thomas tries to hold off Cerritos High junior safety Ryder Eddy in last Friday night's 45-6 victory by the Lancers. Thomas led Norwalk with 83 yards on 13 carries and scored a pair of first half touchdowns. He was also crowned Norwalk's Homecoming King.  PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer

Norwalk High senior running back Jordan Thomas tries to hold off Cerritos High junior safety Ryder Eddy in last Friday night’s 45-6 victory by the Lancers. Thomas led Norwalk with 83 yards on 13 carries and scored a pair of first half touchdowns. He was also crowned Norwalk’s Homecoming King.
PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer

 

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

There are nights in which high school players will always remember, just because of a great play he made or superb statistics he put up. Then there is the night that Norwalk High’s Jordan Thomas had against Cerritos High last Friday night.

The senior running back scored a pair of touchdowns in the first half, then was crowned Norwalk’s 2016 Homecoming King before finishing the game with 83 yards on 13 carries as the Lancers crushed the Dons 45-6 at Excelsior Stadium. For added measure, Thomas also led his team with five tackles and had a sack. So, was that Thomas’ best game as a Lancer?

“Yes it is,” Thomas said with a big grin on his face. “I am much appreciated. I had a good game. The team and I came together over the week and we got better. We came out and executed the plays.”

“This is a guy who probably leads our division in sacks,” said Norwalk head coach Otis Harrison. “Every single game, including the La Mirada game, they all quit running his way. This guy has been a force all year long. He’s very easy to coach, he’s always in a good mood and it’s been good that he’s finally started to believe in himself because you could see the physical features.”

Thomas got the ambush going with a 15-yard run midway through the first quarter and the Lancers (5-3 overall, 2-2 in the Suburban League) would tack on another score with 61 seconds remaining in the first quarter when freshman wide receiver Darius Wallace hauled in a 21-yard reception from sophomore quarterback Brionne Penny.

Cerritos, which couldn’t generate much on offense, scored its lone touchdown six seconds into the second quarter when junior quarterback Colby Nielsen tossed a 19-yard strike to senior wide receiver Damare Franklin. Nielsen completed five passes for 38 yards while the Dons (2-4, 0-3) were in the negative in the rushing department.

“Coming in, I was hoping they would help us out by putting the ball on the ground like they’ve been known to do this year,” said Cerritos first-year co-head coach Barry Thomas. “It’s kind of a tough hustle when you’re expecting somebody to help you out like that.

“One thing that’s tough to see on film is physicality,” he continued. “They’re a very physical team. I think that was the difference.”

With Norwalk clinging to a 15-6 lead, Jordan Thomas added his second touchdown with 3:13 left in the half on a four-yard run. Then with under a minute remaining, Penny heaved a 75-yard scoring strike to senior wide receiver Raylind Butler as the hosts, minus Jordan Thomas, went into the locker room with a 29-6 lead. Through the first 24 minutes, Jordan Thomas had picked up 60 yards on eight touches while Penny was six of eight for 175 yards.

The big halftime lead, which was the largest of the season for Norwalk, was a huge relief for a team that was coming into the contest on a two-game losing streak. After getting blanked by La Mirada High 62-0, the Lancers were nipped by one point to Mayfair High the following week. With the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section playoffs looming three weeks from tonight, Harrison knew the team couldn’t afford another setback.

“It always feels good to win,” Harrison said. “We’re going to work on some fundamentals a little bit next week. These last two weeks have been very…I can understand La Mirada is an awesome team. I thought that we would be 21 points better than what we showed. And I hate that because I know how hard these guys work.”

Junior running back Daniel Faamatau scored from 13 yards out with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter and at that same moment in the fourth quarter, junior fullback Andrew Navarro tacked on an 11-yard rushing touchdown. He would finish with 58 yards on 10 carries while Faamatau added another 48 yards on four carries.

While the Lancers picked up the win, all was not happy with Harrison, who saw his team penalized 15 times for 175 yards, including six holding calls, five personal fouls and a pass interference infraction. One of those holding calls negated a Jordan Thomas 35-yard rushing score.

“I’m not too very happy for a couple of reasons,” Harrison said. “On our part, there’s being fair to our team. Aggressiveness is what we try to get out of our guys and I think some of those calls could have gone both ways. It just seems they always land on us.”

“Even though it wasn’t turnovers, they were, for the most part, helping us out,” Barry Thomas said of Norwalk’s penalties. “And then it’s the details; the tiny details. Is this route far enough outside? There are a lot of small details.”

Junior Ryder Eddy led Cerritos on defense with seven tackles while senior linebacker Josh Cruz added five and a half tackles. Like Norwalk, the Dons had entered the game on a two-game losing streak and like their opponents on the other side of the field, Barry Thomas knew coming in that this would be one of the biggest games of the season as Cerritos is still eying a rare playoff berth.

“Get your mind right, get ready to go, we have to make a comeback because we only have three games left,” Barry Thomas said of the team’s message leading up to the game. “Now it’s two and now we have to make a run for the playoffs.”

“I felt like they got meaner; they got tougher,” Jordan Thomas said. “I like that, but it’s a competitive sport. We come out here to play and we come out here to execute as a team and dominate on the field.”

Norwalk, ranked 10th in the Division 9 poll, will take a week off before visiting Artesia High on Oct. 28 in a critical game for both teams as they pursue a playoff spot. Cerritos hosted Artesia on Oct. 20 for its homecoming encounter.

“The playoff window is getting smaller and smaller and smaller,” Barry Thomas said. “Our margin of error is getting smaller and smaller and smaller. So we have to right the ship and we have to tighten the bolts on those details.”

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