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HMG-CN’s 2018 FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Artesia aims to end playoff drought with Davis, Gladden spearheading the offense

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

ARTESIA PIONEERS

4-6 overall last season, 2-4 in the Suburban League, tied for fourth place

23-27 overall last five seasons

Head coach: Don Olmstead (second season, 4-6)

Lost 16 seniors out of 44 players from 2017 opening day roster

Last time made the playoffs: 2008

2018 schedule

Aug. 17           BYE    

Aug. 23           @ Kennedy (2-8 overall last season)

Aug. 31           @ Bloomington (3-7)           

Sept. 7            Westminster (9-3)

Sept. 14          Vasquez (3-7, Freelance)

Sept. 21          El Dorado (5-6)

Sept. 28          @ Segerstrom (6-4)

Oct. 5              Western (4-6)

Oct. 12            @ John Glenn (5-5)

Oct. 19            Pioneer (3-7)

Oct. 26            @ Cerritos (1-9)

Once again, the Artesia High Pioneers thought they had a team worthy enough of advancing to the CIF-Southern Section playoffs for the first time since 2008. But like all the other seasons, the Pioneers just couldn’t get enough to knock off the powers of the Suburban League-La Mirada High and Mayfair High. Now, head coach Don Olmstead embarks on his second year as Artesia’s head coach and feels this season’s team will be much better and definitely capable of getting that coveted playoff berth.

“As far as the actual games, I think I enjoyed the games a lot more, because there’s so much stuff, especially here,” Olmstead said. “This year, I think I’ll enjoy them even more because last year, I signaled the defense. This year, with [former Artesia head coach Joe] Veach back, he’ll signal the offense and E.J.[Ashby] is going to go to defense and he’ll signal the defense. Plus, we have two more headsets, so now we’ll have all seven of us on the headsets and that will help the organization of the game go a little better.”

The Pioneers lost a lot of games in the second half because the team was thin, according to Olmstead, and they had a lot of two-way players last season. Artesia led John Glenn High 20-16 at the half before losing by three points and it trailed La Mirada High 22-14 at the half before surrendering 26 points in the third quarter. But the Pioneers figure to be better in that area this season, thus limiting the possibility for injuries and/or exhaustion.

“We struggled at certain spots just because we were a little thin,” Olmstead said. “I think the biggest thing was knowing that we were leaving the Suburban League, we all kind of took everything with a grain of salt and just kind of said, ‘let’s just keep moving forward and let’s implement the discipline and the things we want’.”

OFFENSE

The offense averaged a little over 33 points a game last season, mostly because of returning senior quarterback Heder Gladden and returning senior running back Travys Davis. Last season, Gladden was 62 of 107, threw for 845 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions. He also rushed 134 times for 1,221 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. Olmstead said Gladden looks like a Division 1 player. Backing him up will be junior Daniel Ortega and sophomore Douglas Ixco. Davis, who rushed for 671 yards on 80 carries with 10 visits to the end zone last season, will be the backbone of the backfield once again and has the potential to be a 1,000-yard running back. He also caught 17 receptions for 242 yards and one touchdown. When he’s not picking up the ground yardage, Davis will be used out of the slot, as will senior wide receiver Marcel Bowman, who caught nine receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown in 2017. He figures to get a lot more action this season.

“Last year, we didn’t throw a whole lot over the summer because we were implementing a new defense,” Olmstead said. “This summer, we probably threw eight-plus [times] at the Marina Tournament. So, I think that has helped [Gladden] a lot. I’ve seen him progress. And, his reads and his understanding of football have increased a lot.

“I think we’ll be a little bit more balanced this year,” he continued. “We have a couple of receivers on the outside who will help us a little bit.”

The highlight of the summer came from senior Leroy Gladden, who played one of the slot positions and was the team’s most valuable player of the Marina Tournament. Junior P.J. Holmes, a transfer from La Mirada who is Heder Gladden’s cousin, will play the other wide receiver position. Also in the mix will be senior De’Jon Major.

Ideally, Olmstead would like to have his offensive line set up with senior Samson Monis at left tackle, senior Jashawn Scott and juniors Carlos Bustamante and Emmanuel Piedra in the mix at left guard, senior Gustavo Gutierrez at center but could move to guard, sophomore Raul Bello at right guard and junior Jonathon Manzo at right tackle.

Olmstead said he would rather keep Gutierrez at center because he’s a senior and he knows all the spots on the line and he’s a ‘smart kid and a good leader’. He also added Bello is as big as a house and should be a scholarship kid if he can keep his grades up. According to the second-year coach, the right side of the line should be set for the next few seasons.

“Last year was a little easier because all five linemen were coming back,” Olmstead said. “This year, we have five, six, seven new guys who have never played in a varsity game, but they’re so fresh that they just want to learn. They’re asking a lot of questions. They’re learning to block our defense. But I think we’ll be bigger and we’ll be stronger. It’s just can they catch up to where the seniors were last year?”

DEFENSE

After allowing 21 and 27 points respectively the first two games, the defense in 2017 was a little suspect, allowing more than 30 points in seven of the last games. Senior Josh Mageo, who moves from middle linebacker, will anchor down the nose tackle spot while the end positions are still up in the air. Most likely, the end could be occupied by Gutierrez, Manzo, Monis or juniors Tyrell Person and Garret Ross.

Almost everyone will return in the secondary, led by Major at corner, junior Anthony Soto at safety and senior Richard Teate. Sophomore Devin Yoakum will also get some looks at safety as well as returning senior De Marco Burton and if needed, Davis.

At middle linebacker will be junior Malek Kangas and Leroy Gladden and possibly sophomores Andrew Cecil and Omar Ontiveros. At outside linebacker on the strong side will be Ixco and Holmes on the weak side.

“A lot of it is your middle linebacker,” Olmstead said. “Just like any sport, you look down the middle of the field. We’re better at nose than we were last year with Josh, going from middle linebacker to nose, we’re better with Malek at middle linebacker and we’re probably better with Leroy at quick. And, those other two young kids who can play the inside spots, too. So, we have a little bit more depth this year and I think we have better guys who understand the game at those spots.”

SCHEDULE

Artesia, along with Cerritos High, John Glenn and Pioneer High, are the charter members of the new 605 League who field football programs. The league is designed to bring competitive equity to those involved as the Cerritos and Glenn have not been to the playoffs since before Artesia’s last trip. Another considerable difference in the schedule is the omission of ABC Unified School District rival Gahr High, which had defeated Artesia the past four seasons and eight out of the last nine.

“The way I look at it is we just didn’t get anything out of it,” Olmstead said. “The year that we beat them, everybody said, ‘oh, Gahr sucks’. And then you lose to them and everybody goes, ‘oh, you guys suck’. So, either way, it’s a lose-lose for us. We had a great crowd last year, we lose to them and then the next week, we have nobody there at the game because people don’t really look at who you played. They look at whether you won or lost.”

Two opponents advanced to the playoffs last season. The only non-league opponent Artesia has faced since 1998 is Westminster High and that contest was back in 2010, a 41-14 loss on the road. Artesia and Pioneer High split a pair of games in 2015 and 2016. The game with Kennedy High will be played at Glover Stadium.

“We just tried to keep teams that are around our division,” Olmstead said. “That was kind of the method behind it. Bloomington, I don’t know a whole much about because they were just a game that I had to find. Kennedy is around us, Vasquez is 12 with us or maybe 13, El Dorado is in our division and they’re always ranked pretty high and Segerstrom was the number one team in our division two years ago.”

The big game in league will be when the Pioneers travel to Excelsior Stadium to face John Glenn. Artesia is 15-5 against the Eagles in the past 20 meetings, but three of those losses have been at Excelsior Stadium. The Oct. 12 contest figures to be a high-scoring affair as Artesia has outscored Glenn 189-110 the past four seasons, going 3-1 in the process, and since 2004, the Pioneers have scored at least 35 points against Glenn 10 times.

“My personal feeling is I wished that the Suburban League would have let Pioneer in, and we did two four-team conferences,” Olmstead said. “That would have been the logical thing to do. But nobody is logical now in high school athletics. Everyone wants to do ‘my way or the highway’.”

HOMECOMING

Artesia’s homecoming game will be Oct. 5 against Western High. The program has not had a homecoming game against a non-league opponent since 2001 and since 1999 is 10-8 on this festive night. In last season’s homecoming game, Artesia blitzed Cerritos 87-32, allowing only six points in the second half.

DIVISION 12

Artesia remains in Division 12 and like the other teams in the division, the best assurance of getting to the playoffs is winning the league or getting at least eight wins and finishing in second place and hoping that an at-large bid will pay off. There are 46 schools in the division with 16 moving on to an 11thgame. The only 2018 opponents in the same division are Glenn and Pioneer.

“I don’t really look at it a whole lot because I don’t really worry about it until I see our name on paper,” Olmstead said of the division. “I like our chances against anybody. As long as we keep moving in the right direction and we keep everybody healthy enough and our kids stay on the straight path, I like our chances against anybody.”

 

 

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