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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW: Inconsistency in practices leads to bad performance by Cerritos in football opener

By Loren Kopff

ANAHEIM-The final score of the Cerritos High football opener against Western High may be a little misleading despite four first half turnovers. In fact, the Dons had several opportunities to score as they got down to Western’s five-yard line four times and failed to get into the end zone each time.

When the clock read triple zeros at the end of the game, Cerritos co-head coach Barry Thomas was staring at a 51-2 loss. Cerritos allowed the most points in a non-league game since surrendering 60 to Whittier Christian High in November of 2013 and it was the worst season-opening loss since being blanked by Buena Park High 74-0 on Aug. 24, 2012.

“Yeah, it was that and not being able to finish and the turnovers,” Thomas said of the missed scoring chances. “And then the basics; linebackers doing their own thing a little bit. To be honest with you, I’ve never been more prepared for a football team than this and they hung 51 on us at the half. So, I’m not feeling to good.”

Western was already leading 14-0 less than four minutes into the game when the Dons got to the five-yard line, highlighted by a 25-yard run from senior running back Ryder Eddy. But two incomplete passes from senior quarterback Colby Nielsen and a two-yard loss on a running play led to fourth and seven. There, junior running back Tye Anderson was stopped by Jacob Domino after catching a pass three yards behind the line of scrimmage.

The Pioneers turned that into a 77-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Munoz to Marco Navas and after a bad snap sailed through the end zone, plus another Munoz touchdown pass, Western had a 30-0 lead after the first quarter. On the second play of the second quarter, Justin Moore scored his third touchdown of the game, a four-yard run. Following Nielsen’s second interception, Navas made it 44-0 following a 17-yard run just 86 seconds into the second quarter.

“It was in the first quarter when I saw backers doing the wrong thing,” Thomas said. “I saw routes that weren’t as crisp as they had been in practice; things that we do at nauseum that weren’t done right. That’s when I knew we were in trouble.”

The first half ended with Caine Savage returning Nielsen’s third interception of the game to the house for 80 yards. The Dons would avoid the shutout when they got a safety after a high snap went 15 yards through the back of the end zone with 4:59 remaining in the game. After a shaky first quarter, Nielsen performed much better and completed 12 of 22 passes for 106 yards after the second quarter. Anderson led the ground attack with 119 yards on 19 carries. But most of that was against Western’s second and third stringers.

“I’m not worried about Colby,” Thomas said. “It was obviously a bad night. I’m not worried about him because his character…he’s the kind of an even-keeled kid. He doesn’t run hot. I’m not as concerned about that. But he’s not going to complain about anybody. But, it’s the guys around him [and] what they’re doing.

“That’s what we expect out of him,” Thomas said of Anderson’s performance. “But, it’s empty stats. We expect him to run for over 100 yards. He’s a big, strong kid.”

The Dons will regroup and get ready for tonight’s home opener against Bolsa Grande High, a team it edged 16-13 in last season’s opener. But Cerritos had to score 10 points in the fourth quarter to come away with the victory.

“I’m going to do the only thing I know how to do,” Thomas said. “The things that are the most important for our offense, the things that are most important for our defense. Just do them over and over and over again. Maybe now they’ll believe me that you can’t practice like crap and expect to play like gold.”

In other football action, Artesia High will play its season opener tonight when it hosts Magnolia High, who were shutout by John Glenn High 33-0 last Friday night. Glenn junior quarterback David Sanchez was 11 of 16 for 214 yards and three touchdowns while senior running back Carlos Pulido picked up 141 yards on 26 carries with a touchdown. Glenn will be home to Peninsula High tonight.

Norwalk High also won its season opener, a 27-14 victory over El Rancho High, the team that knocked the Lancers out of the playoffs last season. Norwalk will visit Long Beach Jordan High tonight.

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Artesia has opened the 2017 season with three straight victories, defeating Whitney High 6-25, 25-17, 25-15, 20-25, 15-5, Oxford Academy 28-26, 17-25, 26-24, 25-20 and sweeping Jordan High. The Pioneers hosted Western High on Aug. 31 and will compete in the Santa Ana Tournament on Saturday before taking the next nine days off.

Cerritos hosted Whitney on Aug. 31 and will being its last Suburban League season with a road trip to Norwalk High on Thursday. Norwalk lost its season opener to El Rancho 23-25, 17-25, 25-18, 20-25 this past Wednesday. After facing Whittier High on Aug. 31, the Lancers will also compete in the Santa Ana Tournament on Saturday before hosting Warren High on Tuesday and visiting Bassett High on Wednesday.

Valley Christian High has gotten off to a fast 4-1 start, including three straight in the Lakewood Molten Classic. The Lady Crusaders visited Mayfair High on Aug. 31 and will host Sultana High on Tuesday before travelling to California High on Thursday.

CROSS COUNTRY

Cerritos will host the Great Cow Run on Saturday before competing in the ABC School District Meet on Wednesday with both events taking place at Knabe Park.