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WEEK ZERO FOOTBALL: Coates, Udengwu help John Glenn christen new on-campus stadium with dominating victory


John Glenn High senior running back Edwin Udengwu is picking up where he left off last season. Udengwu, who nearly rushed for 2,000 yards in 2018, gained 219 yards on 24 carries and rushed for three touchdowns in Glenn’s 54-20 opening-season win over Savanna High last Friday night. Udengwu also caught three passes for 28 yards and added a touchdown reception. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

By LorenKopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

John Glenn High was founded in 1962 and no varsity football team had ever played on campus until this past Friday when the Eagles welcomed their new stadium with open arms, literally. The bruising and pounding rushing attack, led by senior running backs Robert Coates and Edwin Udengwu, was too much for visiting Savanna High to handle.

Udengwu, who barely missed 2,000 yards last season, rushed for 219 yards on 24 carries and scored three touchdowns while Coates added 111 yards on nine touches and a pair of touchdowns as the Eagles blistered the Rebels 54-20 in the season opener for both teams. In addition, Coates and Udengwu each caught a touchdown pass for good measure, bringing a huge smile to the face of Glenn head coach Vince Lobendahn, who reflected on what it was like when Glenn used to play its home games at Excelsior Stadium.

“I remember coming out with three to four parents who know they love their kids and they’re there,” said Glenn head coach Vince Lobendahn. “But it was nice to see a community that has been hurting for so long come out and get rewarded. I’m so thankful to the Norwalk community; they’ve been a wonderful family.”

The victory was not only payback for when Savanna edged the Eagles by two points last season but was exactly what the school and program needed following a season in which Glenn was denied a chance for a CIF-Southern Section Division 12 win against Nogales High in the final minute when an Udengwu touchdown was called back because of a penalty.

“It’s really been a big motivating point for us throughout the summer,” Udengwu said. “Even throughout the last game of last season, it was a hard loss. But knowing that we had this new stadium to look forward to, it was a big motivation while we were practicing. It was a big uplifting factor for the school and for the team.

“For me it was really big because that was our win [against Nogales] and for the team, in everyone’s heart, we knew that if we had won that game, we were going on to do great things,” he continued. “For us, it was a real ‘looking back on it’ [moment], saying we had to do better as a whole, offensively and defensively. It was a big push for us in the weight room.”

The way the first quarter was going, it looked as if both teams were set for an offensive battle, combining for the first three touchdowns in a span of 31 seconds and the first four touchdowns in a span of 2:14. Nearly halfway through the stanza, Angel Ruiz picked off junior quarterback Matthew Huxtable and returned the pigskin 60 yards for a score. On the first play following the ensuing kickoff, Udengwu rumbled 70 yards for a score and added a two-point conversion. Then, on the next play, Shamonte Rogers raced 80 yards down the left sideline to give Savanna the lead again at 14-8.

But three plays later, Udengwu added a 72-yard run and the Eagles took the lead for good at 15-14. For added measure, Huxtable tossed a 29-yard score to Coates on the final play of the quarter and Glenn was off and running at 21-14. Just in the first 12 minutes alone, the Eagles had outgained the Rebels 200-104.

“For me, it’s all about my O-line,” Udengwu said. “They lead for me. Without them, I don’t think there would be me. But at the same time, I’m still going to try to push. Whatever the team needs to keep winning, that’s all I’m looking forward to.”

With 7:27 remaining in the half, Coates got loose for a 73-yard touchdown run with Udengwu adding another two-point conversion. But senior cornerback Tyrese Watson would recover a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and almost two minutes later, the Eagles increased their lead to 36-14 after a five-yard run by Udengwu. 

As impressive as the offense was, rushing for 450 yards on 41 carries and passing for 137 yards on 10 completions in 21 attempts, the defense was doing its part. Glenn’s defense limited the Rebels to 23 plays in the first half, seven going for negative yardage. Savanna quarterback Ivan Hernandez completed one pass in seven first half attempts for just two yards.

“Well, we’re hoping so because the long stretch of this year, seven of them non-league, three of them league and an opportunity [for the playoffs], we want to make sure our defense puts its stamp out there,” Lobendahn said of his defense holding up. “That will be helpful for us.”

The Eagles began their first possession of the second half the same way it did in the first half-an interception. But after senior free safety Cesar Avila recovered a fumble at Savanna’s 11-yard line, Udengwu hauled in a 16-yard scoring pass from Huxtable nearly a minute later. Savanna ran eight plays in the third quarter while the Eagles tacked on a pair of fourth quarter scores with Coates scoring from a yard out on the third play of the stanza and senior halfback Erik Arias adding a 27-yard run with 1:44 remaining in the game.

The only negative in the game came in the penalty department where Glenn was called for 22 infractions totaling 158 yards. The Eagles were called for eight false starts, a delay of game penalty four times and were offsides three times.

“Every coach attempts to try and practice the small rotations that linger in a team,” Lobendahn said. “But every year, college, NFL, high school, we fail to constantly to get that out. The jump starts, the false starts…you try to yell about it but sometimes you just got to go through it and get some of the rhythm out of it.”

Lobendahn knows his team can’t repeat that if they want to improve to 2-0 tonight with a home game against El Monte High and former Norwalk High head coach Jesse Ceniceros. The Lions run the double-wing offense, something Norwalk did when the Penny brothers were running the show and are coming off a 63-7 win over Sotomayor High in which they rushed for 498 yards and had a 43-7 lead after the first quarter. Last season, the Lions scored 594 points in 13 games and advanced to the Division 13 semifinals where they fell to champion Adelanto High 54-40.

“It’s a lot of meat-grinding, I know,” Lobendahn said. “I have to see how many linemen it’s going to take to get through that defense. I know that’s their offense, but it’s not mine. I’ve got to try to stop it and find a way. It’s early in the year, so I don’t want to give up a bunch of injuries. So, I have to see how this is going to go.”

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