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WEEK SEVEN FOOTBALL-Cerritos ends 13 years of frustration against Gahr, owns fourth quarter to reclaim Silver Milk Jug

CERRITOS HIGH JUNIOR running back Josh Park was one third of a dominating ground attack against Gahr High in last Thursday night’s 21-6 victory. Park rushed 11 times for 44 yards and helped the Dons beat the Gladiators for the first time 2004 and in the process, reclaimed the Silver Milk Jug. Armando Vargas, contributing photographer.

 

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

October 12, 2022~Of the 16 games Gahr High head coach Greg Marshall has been a part of against Cerritos High, he admitted last Thursday night’s game was the most undisciplined game he had been a part of. In fact, the events that happened after the game when the players were exchanging handshakes at the 50-yard line was something he had not been involved in since he coached at Grossmont College in San Diego against Palomar College.

Following Cerritos’ 21-6 win against the Gladiators, players from both teams engaged in some unpleasant extracurricular activities and had to be restrained by teammates and coaches. It was a scene that had been building up throughout a defensive contest for the first 36 minutes, then an offensive fourth quarter from Cerritos that not only saw the host Dons end a 13-game losing streak to their ABC Unified School District and city rivals but featured 16 penalties for over 160 yards for Gahr. Following the game, Marshall said he thought his players were at fault for retaliating from all the chirping that took place from Cerritos during the game, and he takes the blame for ‘all the nonsense’ of his players. He went as far to say, “we were embarrassing.”

Gahr was leading 6-0 entering the fourth quarter before the Dons scored on all three of their possessions for the win, reclaiming the Silver Milk Jug which has typically gone to the winner of the district. However, Gahr will not play Artesia High this season while the Dons hosted the Pioneers on Oct. 13.

The rivalry was put on hold following Gahr’s 48-0 win in 2017 meeting. Part of the reason the two schools have not played each other until now was Gahr’s lopsided wins during the 13-game winning streak, and part of it was the non-football, on the field shenanigans during the games. The last time Cerritos defeated Gahr was on Oct. 8, 2004, a defensive 6-0 contest.

“Obviously, I’m ecstatic about winning and we needed it; the kids needed it,” said Cerritos head coach Brad Carter. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight and credit to Gahr, they played really tough. But I was happy with how we finished.

“Obviously, the extracurricular stuff was not what we wanted, and moving forward, maybe we won’t meet in the middle of the field,” he continued. “But overall, it’s still a great high school environment and great high school football game and there’s a lot to be proud of for Cerritos.”

“I think both sides were equal, so it was very intense,” said Marshall. “It wasn’t one-sided, obviously. Yes, we had to play football, so it’s going to be intense.”

The Cerritos offense couldn’t generate much through the first three quarters, gaining 105 yards entering the final stanza. On the other side of the field, Gahr, which had 104 yards just in the first half alone, was limited to 69 yards in the second half and had its initial drive after halftime stall at the Cerritos 12-yard line.

The Dons (2-5) began their longest drive of the game at their 34-yard line just 18 seconds into the fourth quarter. Nine plays later, all coming on the ground and ending in an 11-yard score from junior quarterback Jake Bautista, the hosts were on the board. Then the defense continued to put pressure on the stagnant Gahr offense as the Gladiators were forced to punt from their own 39-yard line. But a bad snap put the ball at the eight-yard line and two plays later, sophomore running back Dikshanta Adhikari went in from four yards out and just like that, it was 14-6 with 4:38 left in the game.

“We were trying to figure it out; we tried different things,” said Carter. “Luckily, in the second half, we started running the ball, which opened up more stuff for us. But I think we leaned on them by the second half and we were able to open up some runs.

“When you have momentum, those things happen,” he later added. “Bad snaps, interceptions, touchdowns, and we were waiting the whole game to have it. We finally got it and I think we never let it up after that.”

“We knew it was going to be a dogfight,” said Bautista. “We knew they were going to come out here and work. But we just wanted it more. It’s that simple. The whole week, we were ready for it. We kept working, working and working. That’s why it paid off.”

For added measure, when Gahr got the ball back, Cerritos senior defensive back Alex Martinez sacked junior quarterback Ethan Whiteman for an eight-yard loss. Following a Gahr timeout, Whiteman was intercepted by senior Ruben Castro and on the third play, Bautista capped off the big night with a 26-yard score with 53.7 seconds remaining. He would finish the game with 80 yards on 13 carries and broke up a Whiteman pass on third and eight from the Cerritos 11-yard line midway through the third quarter.

 

Cerritos High senior Jake Bautista puts the icing on the cake with a 26-yard touchdown run with under a minute left in last Thursday night’s 21-6 win over Gahr High. Bautista led the Dons with 80 yards on 13 carries and scored twice. PHOTO COURTESY OF JASON WATANABE, CERRITOS HIGH.

 

 

“It’s simple; we worked our [tails] off in practice,” said Bautista. “They weren’t ready for us. We conditioned and worked harder than [Gahr] and that’s why it paid off. I knew it was going to pay off. We wanted it more.”

“He really wants it,” said Carter of his quarterback. “The kid is an absolute stud. He wants it, he wants winning, he wants success for the school and this team. He just willed the team to win, for sure.”

Defense would be the name of the game in the first half, but a recurring theme would haunt Gahr throughout the contest. On the first play of the game, Gahr was called for an illegal block infraction. Then, before the Gladiators could run their first play of their second drive, they were called for the first of four false start penalties in the 13-play drive, which ended when Cerritos junior lineman Jeremiah Bagaygay sacked Whiteman for an eight-yard loss on fourth and 12.

Of the 16 penalties called on Gahr, five were false starts and five were of the personal foul/unsportsmanlike variety.

“We get down there and then we hold or get a personal foul and…we’re not designed for third and 15,” said Marshall. “The defense was fine; they got left out there. I don’t know how many defensive plays we had. Then we had them stopped a couple of times and we had a penalty. So, we got left out there. That was the only difference.”

“There were a lot of flags,” said Carter. “I told the refs I thought they were kind of overcalling it. But every crew is different. There were some that I probably would not have called. But at the end of the game, we can’t control the refs. They tried their best. But they’re here and we’re grateful for that.”

The lone touchdown for the Gladiators, who are now winless in seven games this season, came with 3:34 left in the second quarter. Playing on a short field after Cerritos punted for the second time in the half, Gahr began at the Dons 25-yard line and got a five-yard run from senior Tyvon McGirt, a six-yard run from junior running back Kalen Montgomery and a 14-yard score from McGirt. It was the ninth touchdown Gahr has scored all season. Montgomery led all players with 94 yards on 13 carries while McGirt added 29 yards on 10 touches.

“He’s an excellent football player,” said Marshall of Montgomery. “He runs the ball really hard. It’s just really hard when we can’t do other things. But we just can’t turn around and give it to him 40 times. He’s not that back.”

While Gahr has pretty much been relegated to McGirt and Montgomery on the ground this season, Cerritos has more options, even when its best running back is sidelined with an injury, Sophomore Kalib Moran did not suit up because of an injury, but that just left more opportunities for Adhikari, Bautista and junior Josh Park, who all totaled 179 yards on 36 carries.

“Obviously, it’s harder to move the ball without [Moran],” said Carter. “But it’s next guy up. We don’t call them backups. We call them next starters. Luckily, between Dikshanta Adhikari and Bautista and Park, they moved the ball. Again, the O-line started getting some rhythm in the second half. So, it’s a team effort. I told the kids we win as a team, we lose as a team and we won as a team tonight.”

No matter what the real reasons were for stopping the annual game following the 2017 season, both schools, both programs and the community were glad to see the rivalry renewed last Friday.

“It’s just good to play the game again,” said Marshall. “We deserved to lose. We didn’t play very disciplined. That’s probably one of the worst performances attitude-wise that I think we’ve had. It’s unfortunate.”

“I kind of expected it,” said Bautista. “We worked our [tails] off; I worked harder than anyone else and I wanted this more than anyone else.

“This win overall is a confidence booster,” he later said. “We haven’t been winning and we know that. We’ve been playing hard teams; the competition has been hard. But once we got out here, we’re ready. It’s just getting us ready for league.”

Gahr will host its first Mid-Cities League opponent when Firebaugh High pays a visit to Dr. Hanford Rants Stadium tonight and the new field turf that was recently installed. This is Gahr’s best chance to get into the win column as the Falcons are 2-5 overall, 0-2 in league and will be the last opponent of the final three for the Gladiators that boasts a losing record. Firebaugh, coming off a bad 76-0 loss to Bellflower High last Friday, has given up 255 points and has been shutout two other times by a combined score of 90-0.

“We’re playing good defense, but our offense is killing us,” said Marshall. “We have to get ahead of ball control and we’re unable to do that. We play Firebaugh and we’re going to have a couple of guys missing. But they deserve to be missing. I might sit a couple of guys out, too.”

As for the Dons, they began 605 League play on Oct. 13 against Artesia High with the winner having a great shot of making the playoffs one way or another. The Pioneers entered the game 0-6-1 and in fact, no league team has more than two wins. Artesia, which has scored 41 points in seven games, fell to Westminster High 42-0 last Friday, the fourth time it has been blanked this season and the fourth time it has allowed more than 40 points.

“They’re building their program,” said Carter. “I know they’re going through some struggles, some growing pains. But we’re going to take them seriously. Everyone is 0-0; it’s the first game of league. Obviously, we’re going to be at home at Gahr for the first time with the new turf. We’ll be excited and I’m hoping we can ride this momentum into league.”

 

The scoreboard tells the story after Cerritos High defeated Gahr High in last Thursday night’s renewal of the city rivalry game. The Dons snapped a 13-game losing streak to Gahr. ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

 

 

 

 

 

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