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605 LEAGUE FOOTBALL – Cerritos rides on the Defrain train in the second half, takes care of Artesia to claim league title

 The Cerritos High football team poses in the end zone following its 26-13 victory at Artesia High last Friday night, clinching its second straight 605 League title. The Dons also advanced to the CIF-Southern Section playoffs for the first time since 2001, ending the longest playoff drought by any area team. Cerritos will host Arlington High tonight in a Division 13 first round game. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

 

 

November 3, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

 

First it was Artesia High in 2018, the inaugural year of the 605 League. Then it was John Glenn High in 2019 and although Cerritos High won the league in an abbreviated 2021 spring season, the Dons now have a league crown in a full 10-game fall regular season.

Backed by a strong running performance from senior running back Connor Defrain and a relentless defense that stopped the Pioneers at the most opportune times, the Dons posted a 26-13 victory last Friday night to wrap up the regular season at 5-5 overall and 3-0 in league. Since there was no football in the fall of 2020, Cerritos advances to the CIF-Southern Section playoffs for the first time since 2001. In that season, the Dons smashed Loara High 42-7 at home before falling to Newport Harbor High 36-25 the following week. Tonight, Cerritos is home to Arlington High in Division 13 action.

“Last year’s [league title] was sweet too, but definitely, we had a lot of adversity this year,” said Cerritos head coach Brad Carter. “I know for sure with our losses; the margin, they were bad losses. Obviously with coach [Webster] Peters [and] injuries, this one I would say was tougher for sure.

“It was definitely different, being still a new head coach [at Cerritos],” he continued. “I’ve learned a ton the last nine months. But I’m still proud of the kids for all the adversity they’ve handled, and it’s been a lot.”

“It feels pretty good to be going back to back as league champions,” Defrain said. “It’s never happened at Cerritos before. So, it’s definitely something that will be in the books and that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.

“I would say, honestly, it’s just as important,” Defrain later said of winning the league championship in a full season. “We played the same [league] teams; had the same [league] competition. So, I would say we did our job both last season and this season.”

Defense stole the show in the first quarter as the Dons ran nine plays in two possessions while Artesia’s lone drive of 13 plays, 62 yards and 8:46 ended in a fumble at the Cerritos 30-yard line, recovered by senior linebacker Diego Rodriguez. The defensive theme continued in the second quarter as Cerritos, still on its second possession, ran 10 more plays before senior quarterback David Sagun was stopped six yards short of the goal line. However, Artesia could not capitalize despite chewing up 7:01 and moving 94 yards in 13 plays. That drive would be stopped at the Cerritos 20-yard line following an incomplete pass on fourth and 17. The Pioneers (2-7, 2-1) would also be hampered with two crucial holding calls.

“I didn’t really know how [the game] was going to go because I really felt like going into it that we have made a lot of mistakes offensively and defensively, and I felt like [Cerritos] hasn’t,” said Artesia head coach Don Olmstead. “When you look at our league games, I feel like us versus Glenn, us versus Pioneer…we just didn’t make as many mistakes as them when we won those games.”

The scoreless tilt ended with 33.9 seconds remaining in the first half when Sagun launched a 20-yard pass to senior wide receiver Grant Fueston with the extra point being blocked by senior linebacker Andrew Foreman. However, it didn’t take long for the hosts to get back in the game because five plays into the second half, senior quarterback K’Len Williams scored on a nifty 61-yard run. That extra point was also unsuccessful, but those in attendance at Artesia could sense that the offense was about to pick up a little.

“I thought we dominated the first half,” Olmstead said. “In the end, I didn’t feel like they beat us. I feel like we lost it ourselves.”

After a missed field goal on their next possession, the Dons took the lead for good when Defrain scored from seven yards out and he was just warming up. After gaining 18 yards on six carries in the first half, Defrain rushed for 36 yards in the third quarter alone.

“We started running the ball a lot more in the second half,” Defrain said. “At halftime, our coach gave us a speech and talked about coach Peters, and we needed to do it for him. With coach Peters in the back of my mind before every single snap, it just gives me the second wind. It gives me the second boost to play even better.”

“We just said we had to get our best player the ball, and we did,” Carter said. “We were confident he was going to pop [it] open. We felt like we could get him [more carries] in the second half, and that’s kind of what happened. Credit to him, though, he stuck it out there. He wasn’t 100 percent, still, but he found a way to score.”

It was still 12-6 heading into the fourth quarter, but the pivotal part of the contest came on Cerritos’ first possession of the stanza. The Dons were staring at fourth and six from their own 44-yard line when Carter called a timeout at the 10:37 mark. Moments later, Sagun connected with senior wide receiver Jonathan Martinez for 22 yards. Defrain took over from there, rushing four straight times for 34 yards including a 13-yard run with 9:19 left in the game to increase the score to 19-6. That motivation continued with the Cerritos defense as Rodriguez picked off Williams at the Cerritos 36-yard line with 4:54 left to play. The Pioneers had driven from their own eight-yard line and ran 11 plays before the interception with a combination of rushes from Williams and senior running back Erin Moses along with a seven-yard pass to junior wide receiver Raymel Muldrew.

 

Cerritos High senior running back Connor Defrain celebrates after scoring his third touchdown of the second half against Artesia High, a four-yard run, that enabled the Dons to clinch the 605 League title outright. Cerritos knocked off the Pioneers 26-13 last Friday night as Defrain rushed for 122 yards on 20 carries. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer

 

“We came out with our heavy package and scored a touchdown,” Carter said. “It was fourth and six and we were backed up on our own 45 and [Sagun] threw…a pass to Jonathan Martinez. To me, that was the game-winning play. We had the momentum again we drove and [four] players we scored a touchdown.”

“I think our corner got caught in a bad technique and that’s what you get with sophomores,” Olmstead said. “It’s mistakes like that you can’t have in a playoff-type game.”

Cerritos capitalized on the turnover and iced the game with 2:42 remaining as Defrain scored from four yards out. He ended the night with 122 yards on 20 carries while the rest of the team picked up 60 yards on 16 rushes. And who knows what the ground game would have been like if seniors Manoj Cowgill and Mateo Martinez and junior running back Quincy Monreal had not been injured. Monreal gained 100 yards the previous week against Glenn and scored one touchdown.

“Whether it’s me, Manoj, Quincy or Mateo, I think we can all get the job done at running back,” Defrain said. “And I’m glad that we have such a good running back depth to where if one or two people go down, the third or fourth guy can step up and just still keep on making the play. I think that helped us a lot; our depth helped us a lot this season.”

“When you speak of the adversity, his name comes up,” Carter said of Defrain. “I mean, injuries, coming in for a quarter, coming out for a couple of weeks. And today, he said he wasn’t coming out, and he pulled us through. He just is the absolute rock.

 

 

 

Artesia High senior Andrew Foreman fends off Cerritos High senior linebacker Erick Louie III in last Friday night’s contest for the 605 League crown. Cerritos defeated Artesia 26-13 to claim its second straight league title. Foreman rushed four times for 24 yards. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

 

 

Sagun completed 10 of 22 passes for 123 yards and on defense, senior linebacker Erick Louie III had eight and a half tackles Rodriguez added five and a half tackles. Artesia was led by Williams (161 yards on 23 carries, 62 yards passing) and Moses (98 yards on 18 carries). Defensively, Williams and sophomore defensive back Pablo Cruz each had three tackles. The Pioneers, in the playoffs for a third straight season, will travel to Rialto High for a Division 14 first round game

“Give them credit, they have tough kids and they wanted to win, too,” Carter said. “I was happy in the second half that we kind of opened it up a little bit. But this is a championship game and it felt like one. The whole game was tough.

“I have to say, [Williams] is as tough as they come,” he later said. “That kid is a tough player; he deserves all the credit for this season. He’s had a tough year too in terms of the contact, but that kid is a warrior. And he was tough to bring down again. He’s a big, strong player. He absolutely deserves all the accolades he gets.”

 

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