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Gahr’s youth is served in another big shutout win over Cerritos

Monday, September 16, 8:30 am

By Loren Kopff

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The change comes from Gahr, which is in a rebuilding season and has more sophomores on its varsity football team than seniors. But it was still the same outcome when the Gladiators hosted their cross-town and ABC Unified School District rival Cerritos.

Backed by four touchdown passes from freshman quarterback Kobee Lagarde, the Gladiators blanked the Dons 41-0 for their ninth straight win over their city rivals. During that stretch, Gahr has outscored Cerritos 384-20 with six shutouts. In addition, Gahr posted its first victory of the season after losing to Lakewood and Narbonne the previous two weeks by a combined score of 62-0.

After Cerritos punted on its first possession, Gahr junior running back Leotis Johnson III rushed three straight times for 21 yards followed by three straight runs from junior running back Taylor Williams totaling five yards, the last coming on a one-yard score with 7:13 left in the opening quarter.

Following a Cerritos fumble, Johnson touched the ball twice and scored on a two-yard run with 3:03 left in the opening stanza for a 14-0 lead. For the second straight time, Gahr went for, and recovered an onside kick but the drive stalled when Lagarde was sacked by Cerritos junior linebacker Ivan Perez. But two plays later, another Cerritos fumble ended that drive as the Dons (0-2) were held to four yards on seven plays in the first quarter.

Gahr went up 20-0 almost five minutes into the second quarter when Lagarde tossed a 30-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver De’Jah Pickett. Then with 66 seconds remaining in the half, Lagarde, found sophomore wide receiver Keynin Charbonnet for a 43-yard score and the Gladiators went into the locker room with a commanding 27-0 lead. Lagarde, who declined to comment after the game at the request of Gahr principal Gina Zietlow, completed 10 of 12 passes for 135 yards in the half. Also declining to comment was Gahr head coach Greg Marshall.
But Cerritos head coach Darin Owens was quite impressed with Lagarde’s performance.

“He was very good tonight,” Owens said. “He grew up tonight, and that’s what they want to see out of their program also. No doubt about that.”

Gahr needed just two plays after Cerritos kicked off to begin the second half to increase the score to 34-0. This time, Lagarde hooked up with freshman wide receiver Tony Hicks for a 28-yard connection. After Cerritos saw its longest drive of the night (nine plays, 5:23) stall on downs, Lagarde completed the game’s scoring with a 42-yard strike to Charbonnet. The fourth quarter was played with a running clock and reserves in the game for Gahr.

Charbonnet caught four passes for 98 yards while Pickett hauled in another four for 72 yards. Lagarde finished with 205 yards and had three incomplete passes in 15 attempts. Williams led the ground assault with 58 yards on eight carries while Johnson III added 44 more on seven touches.

The score would have been worse if it wasn’t for a huge number of penalties. Early in the third quarter, Johnson had a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown called back because of a personal foul penalty. Gahr also had three straight penalties towards the end of the third quarter that eventually led to a second and 64 from its own 18 situation. In all, Gahr was flagged 14 times for 125 yards.

Meanwhile, the Cerritos offense seemed to be in quicksand mode throughout most of the night. The Dons were held to 33 yards on 35 carries and had four first downs in the game. Senior running back LaMarr Crowder had 31 yards on 16 carries. Last week against Valley Christian the Dons rushed for well over 400 yards and Crowder had close to 200 yards.

“They were way more physical,” Owens said. “That was the bottom line. This is a higher program. We’re going to have a couple of [games like this] this year. We know that. Last week’s team…that’s more where we kind of belong and that’s where we’re at right now. [Gahr] is a good ball club and they’re improving. They improved a lot tonight after the past two games. Bottom line is they were way more physical than us tonight.”

Gahr avoided being blanked for the third straight game but already has been shutout in consecutive games for the first time since 2000 when it lost to Cerritos 36-0, then to Westchester 44-0. The offense through the first three games is still a far cry from the first three games of last year, when the Gladiators totaled over 900 yards passing, over 400 yards rushing and scored 97 points against Lakewood, Northwood and Cerritos. Gahr had close to a season-high 350 yards last Friday night.

Gahr will try to win the coveted Silver Milk Barrel that goes to the district winner when it visits Artesia tonight. The Gladiators have won four straight district titles and were the victors in a high scoring, 59-25 affair over Artesia last season. Cerritos will host Ocean View tonight in the third of four straight games that the Dons will play at Rants Stadium to begin the 2013 season.