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Nicholson, Valley Christian spoil Cerritos’ return to varsity football

By Loren Kopff

Varsity football is back for Cerritos High School and the Dons put up a valiant effort last Friday night in their home opener against Valley Christian. But the Crusaders scored 42 unanswered points after falling behind in the first few minutes of the contest and won their first game of the season, 42-28.

It was the first game for the Dons at Hanford Rants Stadium since Nov. 4, 2011 against Norwalk. Cerritos had three varsity home games last season at alternate sites before dropping its varsity team after four games. But following last Friday night’s contest, Cerritos head coach Darin Owens stated it was outstanding to be home and he felt the team took a slight turn in the football program. A few weeks ago, he also said he just wanted his team to be competitive this season.

“Tonight was a huge step for that,” Owens said. “It was also a giant step for the football program. We have an incredible long way to go. But at least tonight we were able to compete, and that’s huge.”

Cerritos scored its first points since that Norwalk game just 80 seconds into the game when senior running back LaMarr Crowder scored from 27 yards and added a two-point conversion. Following a V.C. punt, sophomore running back Jacob Tucay rumbled 56 yards for a touchdown and after another Crowder two-point conversion, the hosts had something to cheer about with less than three minutes into the game.

“It was a very good surprise,” Owens said. “I figured if we did our job and executed properly…you just never know what’s going to happen. I’ll take that anytime we can get that. But it was a pleasant surprise.”

However, after rushing for 191 yards in the first quarter, the Dons were held to 28 in the second quarter and V.C.’s offense took over. Midway through the first quarter, senior running back Adam Range went up the middle for a 15-yard score. Then with 3:46 remaining in the first half, the Crusaders (1-1) scored the first of three touchdowns in a span of 3:11.

Senior Darryl Richardson and junior Jonathan Nicholson each had three-yard runs for touchdowns and junior quarterback Jack Struiksma connected with junior wide receiver Aaron Kirchner for an eight-yard score.

“I think we were able to get the ball out on the edge to a couple of receivers and loosen things up a little bit,” said V.C. first-year head coach Woodie Grayson. “But there was no great scheme change. I thought Jonathan Nicholson just decided that he was going to run hard and run fast. His play really ignited the offense.”
“We became our own worst enemy and that’s part of the youth with our kids right now,” Owens said. “I think we just stubbed our toe a little bit. But I felt we came back in the second half and was very competitive and played hard.”

Richardson began the second half with a 73-yard touchdown run down the left sideline and with just under eight minutes left in the third quarter, he added a 20-yard touchdown run to complete V.C.’s scoring. The last five touchdowns were scored in a span of 7:55. Nicholson led everyone with 228 yards on 14 carries while Range added 98 yards on 14 rushes. The Crusaders would finish with 423 yards on the ground.

Cerritos would make the final score more respectable when Crowder found the end zone from 20 yards out late in the third quarter, and scored on a 67-yard run 73 seconds into the fourth quarter. Crowder led the Dons with 196 yards on 24 carries. Boyd picked up 77 yards on 10 carries and junior quarterback Ki’Jon Washington, who did not attempt a pass in the double wing offense, chipped in with 76 yards on 11 carries. Cerritos would amass 435 yards on the ground and have 15 first downs.
“He just kept going and pounding and did the best he could do,” Owens said of Crowder. “Our line did an exceptional job. We have a lot of kids who have never played football right now. This was their first game.”

“I knew they would be better offensively than they were the year before,” Grayson said. “But they were much better. They’re bigger and they have good speed. I knew they would score; I just didn’t think they would be as explosive.”

The 28 points scored by Cerritos are the most since putting up 35 against Artesia on Oct. 22, 2010. Cerritos will face another city rival, Gahr, tonight, hoping to end an eight-game skid to the Gladiators. V.C. has tonight off before hosting Mayfair on Sept. 20.