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2021 HS FOOTBALL PREVIEW : New head coach, many varsity rookies to headline Norwalk football this season

 

August 11, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

 

NORWALK LANCERS

1-4 last season

18-29 overall last five seasons

Head coach: Ruben Guerrero (first season)

Lost 21 seniors out of 33 players from 2020 roster

Last time made the playoffs: 2017

2021 schedule

Aug. 20           San Marino (2-2 overall last season)

Aug. 27           Bell (1-2)

Sept. 3            Savanna (3-2)

Sept. 10          @ South East (2-2)
Sept. 17          @ John Glenn (0-1)

Sept. 24          @ El Rancho (2-3)

Oct. 1              Bellflower (1-4)

Oct. 8              @ Firebaugh (0-0)

Oct. 15            @ La Mirada (2-3)

Oct. 22            Mayfair (3-3)

Oct. 29            BYE    

First-year head coach Ruben Guerrero has been walking the Norwalk High hallways since 1989 and will be entering his 16th year as a teacher in the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District. Guerrero takes over for former head coach Dean Gray, who in two stints as the Lancers head coach covering five seasons, went 17-29. But, for the past 10 years, Guerrero has been helping the Norwalk program, from the days of former head coaches Jesse Ceniceros and Otis Harrison to Gray. This will be Guerrero’s first head coaching job anywhere, but he has assisted many programs.

“I’m very excited to be able to take over the program and just kind of keep it going and see what we can do to try to achieve as much success as possible,” Guerrero said. “I want to pick up where coach Gray left off. He laid down a great foundation for us, so I just want to take the torch and run with it. I want to help the program reach some of the success levels that we had in the recent past.”

Guerrero said the short four-month offseason hasn’t been a difficult one, but the program has been trying to get back to what it has been accustomed to. He added that the school has been very careful in following all the Covid protocols the school and the district has set forth, which has been ‘a little challenging and a little daunting’.

“We’re doing it so that we can ensure a season for the kids,” Guerrero said. “We’re doing the same thing now and taking the same precautions.”

OFFENSE

Last season, the Lancers played in five of the six games allowed by the CIF-Southern Section and after getting blanked by Downey High in the season opener, Norwalk scored 37 points one week later against Bellflower High and ended the season having scored 75 points. In fact, nine of the 11 touchdowns the Lancers scored were by players who graduated in June.

Only 11 players return from last season’s team that won one of five games played and one of those coming back is junior quarterback Caden Barnhill. Guerrero said he was ecstatic to see Barnhill thrown into the fire as a sophomore in a Covid season and play the five games the Lancers had.

“We were very delighted; we were really happy to see his performance out on the football field,” Guerrero said. “He showed a candor that was rare for a sophomore quarterback to be out there. He took charge, he played hard, he didn’t let the game get too big and he functioned very well out there.”

Barnhill’s backup will be senior Angel Amador, who has been in the program the past two years.

A staple of Norwalk’s offense for the past 15 years has been running the double wing offense and this season, the Lancers return five running backs who should continue that tradition. Norwalk will be led by senior running backs Bryan Echesirim, Jonathan Goodloe and junior running backs Daniel Castillo, David Herrera and Giovanny Munguia. Two varsity newcomers who Guerrero sees as a dark horse to make an impact will be senior Sam Aguirre and junior Adrian Ramirez. You won’t see too many wide receivers in this offense, but the Lancers do return junior tight end Christian Lopez and senior Angel Rosales could also see some time there.

“It is a big committee; a big running back committee,” Guerrero said. “But right now, we’re looking at Jonathan Goodloe and David Herrera to really lead the way and carry a lot of the load for us in our offense.”

The offensive line will consist of senior left tackle Damon Ramirez, senior left guard Alfonso Cortes, senior center Diego Hernandez, sophomore right guard Adrian Lopez and junior right tackle Daniel Vasquez.

“The players have been running the offense for a couple of seasons when coach Gray came back to bring in the double wing,” Guerrero said. “So, they’re pretty familiar with it. For us, in our installation of preparation, it’s been a little easier because they’re so familiar with it already. And I like where the kids are right now. They’re working very hard at it.”

DEFENSE

Norwalk’s defense allowed 164 points last season with its best performance coming in a 21-19 loss to Suburban League rival La Mirada High. In that game, both teams traded first quarter touchdowns, then did not score again until the fourth quarter.

The defensive line will be occupied by Ramirez, who is experienced and has developed into a fine young football player, according to Guerrero. Joining Ramirez could be senior Adrian Martinez and Rosales. The first-year head coach indicated that the other defensive end has not yet been solidified.

In the secondary will be Barnhill and Goodloe at safety, Echesirim and Herrera at cornerback with Ramirez part of the committee, as Guerrero put it, and junior Michael Mueller, a potential safety.

Castillo will be one of the linebackers along with Martinez, who played that position in 2019, and junior Jessie Barrientez.

SCHEDULE

Just like its city rivals on the east side of town, Norwalk will finally be playing its home games on campus as the Lancers will usher in their new field turf digs, which had been ready to be played on last November. The Lancers will waste little time in getting used to their new home as the season opens with three straight home games. After that, Norwalk will not be home for nearly a month when Suburban League play begins. Only one opponent, Savanna High, had a winning record last season. Had there been a 2020 fall season, the Lancers would have had three home games at Excelsior Stadium-Bell High, Ocean View High and Firebaugh High. Norwalk replaces a road game at Pioneer High in 2020 with a visit to El Rancho High.

Norwalk faced Savanna in a 2019 scrimmage contest and Guerrero says he feels good about this season’s matchup. Another team that the Lancers saw in a 2019 scrimmage game was Firebaugh, which is new to the league but didn’t play a game last season.

In 2019, Norwalk blanked Bell 26-0 in the second game of the season and in 2015, the Lancers knocked off Bell 34-14 in the season opener. The previous season, Norwalk blasted Bell 57-0 in the season opener.

When the annual Mayor’s Cup game takes place on Sept. 17, the Lancers will be enjoying a 17-5 mark against Glenn since 1998.

“We’re excited to be able to open up on our new facilities,” Guerrero said. “We’re eager to get to competition. We know San Marino is always well-coached and is going to be a tough team. That will be a good test for us; a good gauge to see where we’re at.

“I want to put our best foot forward and I want to bring back some of that Lancer pride that has been around,” he later said. “Some of the community involvement again; I want to get the community involved as much as possible. Coming out of Covid football, I want to do what we can to get to football. I want to make sure the kids get to football.”

HOMECOMING

Most likely, Norwalk’s homecoming game will be on Oct. 1 against Bellflower High, a team it has hosted for its homecoming twice since 1998. In 2019, Norwalk fell to the Buccaneers 28-13 and in 2012, Norwalk was edged by Bellflower 45-44 in a double overtime thriller. Since 1998, the Lancers are 13-9 on homecoming night, but have lost the past two times. Overall, Norwalk is 9-13 against Bellflower since 1998, but has lost the last two meetings.