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CIF-SS DIV. 10 FOOTBALL QUARTERFINALS: Norwalk’s offense stymied as defense unable to corral Muir’s Pulley in shutout loss

Norwalk High senior running back David Herrera muscles his way for some yardage as Turran Williams of John Muir High tries to bring him down in last Friday night’s CIF-Southern Section Division 10 quarterfinal game. Herrera rushed for 141 yards on 26 carries but the Lancers fell to the Mustangs 21-0. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

 

November 14, 2022

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

On paper, it was nearly a typical night for Norwalk High when it hosted John Muir High last Friday night in a CIF-Southern Section Division 10 quarterfinal game. The third-seeded Lancers ran twice the number of plays as the Mustangs did and had the ball for over 34 minutes of the 48 minute contest.

But the only thing that counts is the scoreboard, and on this crisp evening, Norwalk couldn’t get what it needed to advance to the semifinals. Muir’s offense collected 280 yards while its defense shut down Norwalk’s double wing offense to the tune of 174 yards in a 21-0 victory. It was the first time Norwalk had been shutout since Mar. 19, 2020 when Downey blanked the purple and gold 49-0. That was also the first game for senior quarterback Caden Barnhill and senior running back David Herrera, both of whom would be fixtures in the program since the Covid-shortened season.

“We ran into a buzzsaw tonight,” said Norwalk head coach Ruben Guerrero. “Those guys were very stout. We’re used to being able to move the ball a little bit better than we did tonight and we were trying to adjust on the fly in the game. Basically, [them being able to stout] us stifled what we were able to do.

Muir got the ball to begin the game and went 63 yards in 3:16, ending in a two-yard scoring run from Jachai Pulley. After that, both defenses would control the rest of the first half. The Mustangs punted on their next drive, then ran two plays in the second quarter while Norwalk, the tri-champions of the Mid-Cities League, was stopped on downs in its first drive, which lasted almost six minutes.

On Norwalk’s second drive of the game, the combination of Herrera and senior running back Michael Mueller combined for 68 yards on 11 plays. A sizable chunk of that came on Herrera’s 46-yard rumble on third and six which put the hosts in great shape at the Mustangs seven-yard line. Norwalk eventually got to the three-yard line, but lost yardage on third down, then saw the Mustangs block a 21-yard field goal attempt from senior Nelson Vasquez. Norwalk would not get closer than Muir’s 35-yard line the rest of the game.

“We wanted to put points on the board because points come at a premium in the playoffs,” said Guerrero. “We tried to put some points on the board. We thought we would be able to punch it in down there at the five and we had a few miscues, and that really hurt us. We moved backwards and that hurt us.”

Muir, which tied for second place in the Pacific-Upper League, thought it would be in great shape to add to its lead following the blocked field goal when Pulley got past the defense for a 71-yard run. But Mueller tracked him down, stripped the ball and the Lancers recovered the fumble with 3:46 left in the half. They ended the half on an eight-play, 33-yard drive with Pulley intercepting Barnhill as the clock read triple zeros.

“[With the score] 7-0 at the half, we thought we were in great shape,” said Guerrero. “We’ve been down before by a score and we went in at halftime to make some adjustments. We felt confident coming out of the half and then we couldn’t get some movement up front.”

That would pretty much be the extent of Norwalk’s offense as in the third quarter, it could only gain 24 yards on a dozen plays, going three and out on its first two drives and not advancing past the Muir 45-yard line in the second half. Normal holes that would be available for Herrera and Mueller to run through were immediately closed by Muir’s stingy defense. In fact, the Lancers had three plays of at least 10 yards in the game, and one of them was a pass play.

“Their defense is very athletic, and up front, they were very stout,” said Guerrero. “What we’re accustomed to, our breakaways…they were able to track us down and stifle us.”

Any chance of Norwalk getting back in the game was ended in the third quarter when Pulley scored from seven yards out with 7:53 left in the third quarter and Alexander Miller catching a 32-yard pass from Brandon Valencia with 3:35 left in the stanza. Valencia completed all 10 passes he threw for 102 yards while Pulley gained 158 yards on 12 carries. Herrera was the usual workhorse he has been all season, gaining 141 yards on 26 carries and Mueller was limited 12 yards on 14 touches while Barnhill completed two passes for 15 yards. Mueller also led the defense with six tackles, bringing his season total to 53. He led the Lancers with 1,621 yards on 147 carries this season and scored 23 touchdowns while Herrera, who missed the final 11 quarters of the regular season, gained 1,409 yards on 121 carries and found the end zone 17 times.

“Those guys, for years…they’ve been doing what they do,” said Guerrero. “But that’s the mark of high school football. They’re here for a few years, then they graduate and move on.to new chapters in their lives. We’re going to miss them; I’m going to miss them dearly. Those guys were the backbone of this offense of this program as leaders. I wish them nothing but the best because they really worked hard for Norwalk High School and they demonstrated what is to be a Norwalk Lancer.”

The Lancers finish 2022 with a 10-2 mark, scoring at least 28 points in nine of those victories. In the first seven games of the campaign, Norwalk scored no fewer than 44 points and the defense posted three shutouts this season with another three games in which the opponent failed to score more than a dozen points.

 

 

 

Norwalk High senior running back Michael Mueller tries to find a hole between Jalen Birdsong (#52) and Turran Williams of John Muir High in last Friday night’s CIF-Southern Section Division 10 quarterfinal game. Mueller rushed for 14 times but gained 12 yards in a 21-0 loss. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

 

“It was a remarkable season by these young men,” said Guerrero. “They have nothing to be ashamed of. We got our first playoff win since the 2013 season. We’re only the third team to have 10 wins in a season in the school’s history. We’ve got the city behind our back now and the school has been behind us 100 percent.

“I think it’s a sign of things to come,” he continued. “We’re excited about where we’re at and we have a bright future with out young ones coming in. It was a lot of fun; it was a great ride, and all great rides have to end sometime. But it was a lot of fun this year.”

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