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2021 HS FOOTBALL PREVIEW : John Glenn hoping to erase bad memories of shortened 2020 spring season

August 11, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

 

JOHN GLENN EAGLES last season

19-24 overall last five seasons

Head coach: David Cruz (second season, 0-1)

Lost six seniors out of 33 players from 2020 roster

Last time made the playoffs: 2019

2021 schedule

Aug. 20           BYE

Aug. 27           @ Firebaugh (0-0 last season)

Sept. 3            Long Beach Cabrillo (0-0)

Sept. 10          Bonita Vista (2-2)

Sept. 17          Norwalk (1-4)

Sept. 24         @ Hawthorne (0-2)

Oct. 1              Covina (2-3)

Oct. 8              Garden Grove (3-3)

Oct. 15            @ Artesia (0-1)

Oct. 22            @ Cerritos (3-1)

Oct. 29            Pioneer (0-2)

John Glenn High played in one game last season but the problems for the Eagles program began at the beginning of 2020 when former head coach Vince Lobendahn stepped down. All he did was take the Eagles to the playoffs in 2018 and 2019 and coach the program for six seasons, the longest run of any Glenn head coach in the past 20 seasons. Co-athletic director David Cruz took over for Lobendahn and once Covid hit last March, had some doubts about even playing one game due to the low numbers in the program.

“It all started with Lobendahn resigning,” Cruz said. “With Lobendahn resigning, we lost six players off the bat. Four players left before Lobendahn resigned and two left right when they heard he resigned. Then they hired me, and they assumed that all the kids were going to stay if I stayed on the staff.”

Truth be told, some players transferred out of Glenn before Lobendahn resigned, then a few more after he resigned, and even more once Cruz took the job. Now, Glenn has just two players with varsity experience. Even without Covid and had the Eagles played a full 10-game schedule in the fall of 2020, they still would have been very inexperienced.

Cruz expects to have between 40-50 players on the varsity team with about 15 freshmen suited up for Friday nights. But he added that his sophomores will benefit being on the frosh/soph team and he is looking forward to the upcoming years because Glenn should be better next season.

Prior to the one game played in the spring, Glenn had won at least five regular season games in three straight seasons, winning a 605 League title in 2019, finishing in second place in 2018 and ending the 2017 season in fourth place while in the Suburban League.

OFFENSE

The lone game the Eagles had was one they would soon forget about. They were blasted by Cerritos High 56-0 on Mar. 26 in which quarterback Matthew Huxtable and left tackle Anthony Lira, both of whom graduated, were the ones with varsity experience. Wide receiver Rafael Valdez, another 2021 graduate, started against Cerritos making those three the only seniors who started that game. Cruz added that he did want to get some games in for the six seniors who suited up against Cerritos but felt sorry for Huxtable and Lira who had dedicated their four years at Glenn.

“I thought more students would stick around for the team from the previous year but that didn’t work out,” Cruz said. “We had ineligibility issues and then Covid hit. I did want to see them compete, and I knew it was going to be tough. But I didn’t realize Cerritos was going to be as good as they were.”

After the Cerritos game, Cruz admitted his team was preparing to play Artesia High and Pioneer High in the hopes of getting in the three league games. However, Artesia was senior loaded, especially on the offensive line and Cruz was afraid the same thing would happen against the Pioneers as was the case against the Dons. Against Cerritos, the Eagles had three players with concussion issues and another player left with a knee issue.

Cruz said he isn’t counting last season as any experience for the returning players and in fact, is calling the one game a wash. For this season, there is a quarterback competition brewing between senior Nathanael Jacobo and junior Emmanuel Enriquez. The running backs figure to be senior Iona Young, juniors Tristin Morales, Manuel Sigala and Alex Valdez while seniors Emmanuel Rico and Jimmy Torres and junior Thomas Lee are in the conversation for wide receivers with junior Matthew Alvarez or sophomore Richard Sanchez as the tight ends.

Up on the line will be senior left tackle David Barahona, senior left guard Gabriel Pasillas, who started at center against Cerritos, junior center Siosiua Kalekale, junior right guard Joseph Chavez and junior right tackle Mikel Udengwu.

“I think we’ll be able to compete,” Cruz said. “I like our offensive line. They work hard, they’re aggressive; they should be able to open up some holes. Iona Young is a shifty running back who should be able to gain yards. But we don’t have a lot of football savvy right now and installing plays is a little difficult because we have to regress all the time. Once they start getting a little football savvy, they’ll start picking plays up and we’ll be able to add to the playbook. But right now, it’s pretty thin.”

DEFENSE

Occupying the defensive tackle positions will be Barahona and Udengwu while senior Daniel Espinoza will be one of the defensive ends with the other end position yet to be determined. The linebackers will be junior Juan Ruelas, Jacobo, Sanchez and Valdez while the secondary will be anchored down by cornerbacks Lee and Torres and safeties Sigala and Young, or even junior Efren Figueroa.

Cruz isn’t expecting much this season but did say that he has a good core of freshmen and sophomores that he will go to battle within the next couple of seasons.

“I want to prepare these guys and give them as much football knowledge as I can possibly give and have them compete this year whether or not down the road we can contend for a league title,” he said. “I think we should be able to compete with teams.”

SCHEDULE

The Eagles should feel they can be on the same page with most or all their non-league opponents as two of them did not play in the spring, one had a .500 record and none of them had a winning record. The Eagles have never played San Diego-based Bonita Vista High, Covina High or Firebaugh High in at least 20 years. Before they became members of the 605 League, Glenn and Pioneer had met seven times from 2009-2015 with Pioneer winning four of those games. In 2018, Glenn edged Hawthorne High 51-50 before losing the next season 24-16. Glenn also knocked off Long Beach Cabrillo High 28-13 in 2019 and is 4-1 against the Jaguars since 1999.

“I like our schedule,” Cruz said. “There have been three schools in that non-league schedule call me with concerns about having numbers. Now, we’re in the same boat, so they’re preaching to the choir when they’re trying to get sympathy out of me. It’s going to be a battle with a lot of those non-league teams. They’re struggling; we’re struggling, but the deal with Glenn and I’m glad we’re starting school early, is we get a lot of students on the first day of school wanting to play football. Our numbers should increase by 15 or 20 on just the first day of school.”

Glenn has lost once in 605 League play, a 42-28 decision to Artesia High in the inaugural 2018 season and since 1998, has won six games against the Pioneers. However, over that same time, the Eagles are 11-12 against Cerritos.

“We only need to win two of those [league] games,” Cruz said. “For one reason or another, Artesia is very similar to us where they have kids going on vacation; they have grade trouble when first quarter comes around. So, their team might not look the same at the end as it does right now, same as us. I know Pioneer is struggling as well, so just winning two out the three games, regardless if Cerritos looks as strong as they did last year…we just need to bring a better game plan and a much bigger fight.”

HOMECOMING

Glenn’s homecoming game will be against Garden Grove High right before the league opener and the Eagles have gone 6-15 in homecoming games since 1999, losing the past two. This will be the second straight homecoming game against a non-league opponent and third since 2016. Glenn has faced Artesia and Cerritos five times each on homecoming as well as city rival Norwalk High four times. This will also be Glenn’s first meeting with Garden Grove in at least 22 seasons.

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