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Penny puts Dominguez away in fourth quarter as Norwalk moves on

By Loren Kopff

LA MIRADA – Norwalk senior wingback Rashaad Penny saved his best for last in last Friday night’s California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Southeast Division quarterfinal game. Penny scored a pair of touchdowns within a span of 6:55 and came up with a crucial fourth down reception as the Lancers outlasted visiting Dominguez 19-7 at Goodman Stadium.

Penny scored all three touchdowns Norwalk scored, the second time in four weeks he has scored all of his teams’ touchdowns, and the defense limited the Dons to less than 200 yards rushing in a battle of teams that thrive off of the double wing offense. Norwalk remained undefeated at 12-0 and advances to tonight’s semifinal game at Muir High.

“It was who was going to stop the other team more,” said Norwalk head coach Jesse Ceniceros. “Thank god our kids hung in there and battled. We scored when we had to score. I’m really proud of the kids. I couldn’t ask for anything more. We beat a pretty good team over there.”

Both teams played to a scoreless first quarter despite Norwalk’s defense forcing a pair of fumbles within the first 10 minutes. But with 4:51 left in the first half, Penny hauled in a 36-yard touchdown pass from senior Matthew Ortega. Penny would be limited to 11 carries on 39 yards in the first half but caught three passes for 56 yards. The rest of the Lancers combined for 29 yards of total offense in the half.

Meanwhile, the defense was doing a number on Dominguez’ rushing attack of Aaron Fleming, Joshua Ford, Keith Hairston, Dominique Lee and Henry Williams, holding them to 90 rushing yards on 26 carries in the first 24 minutes.

The Dons, who were tri-champions of the San Gabriel Valley League, began the second half with a nine-play, 81-yard drive that lasted 4:12 and ended with a 13-yard keeper up the middle from Fleming. After that, Dominguez would gain 35 yards on 12 plays the remainder of the game.

Norwalk’s offense then chewed up nearly seven minutes after the touchdown but came away empty. It wasn’t until the early moments of the fourth quarter that the Lancers began to turn up the heat. With 10:38 left in the game, Penny gained 14 yards on two carries before leaving the game after getting dinged up a bit. Sophomore wingback Christopher Walker picked up 33 yards around the left side on the next play before Penny returned and cashed in from 30 yards out.

After holding the Dons to eight yards on the ensuing drive, the Lancers iced the game when Penny scored on a two-yard run with 1:58 left in the contest. The drive was kept alive when Penny caught a 32-yard pass from junior quarterback Jacob Carr on fourth and nine from the Dominguez 39-yard line.

Penny picked up 63 of his game-high118  yards in the fourth quarter alone as Ceniceros switched up his offensive game plan a bit in the second half by reverting back to the Stack-I formation from the mid 1970’s, long before he ran the double wing.

“We made some blocking adjustments,” Ceniceros said. “We went out on the Stack-I [formation] that we pulled from way back. [Dominguez] had a hard time blocking that. Again, Penny is just one heck of an athlete. Honestly, I think he’s one of the best athletes in the nation and I’m surprised USC and UCLA aren’t here every day talking to him. But I think it will happen soon.”

Penny caught all five passes from Carr and Ortega for 113 yards while senior linebackers Jose Abrina (12 tackles), Jose Ramos (11 tackles) and junior lineman Dillon Faamatau (10 tackles) paced the defense. To show how even the game was played, Norwalk ran 51 plays on seven drives to Dominguez’ 48 plays on eight drives. Both teams each had 14 first downs and each went two for five on fourth down conversions. But the Lancers were six of 12 on third down plays while the Dons were true just twice on nine third down plays.

Norwalk is one of seven teams posting a 12-0 mark in the Southern Section and advances to the semifinals for the third time in six seasons, all with Ceniceros as the head coach. But to move on to the finals for the first time since 1977, it will have to beat a fourth ranked Muir squad that is similar to that of Dominguez. Muir’s defense has allowed seven points or fewer six times and enters the game with an 11-1 record.

“Our pass blocking has to improve a little bit,” Ceniceros said. “I think some of our blocking schemes we need to work with a little bit. But I know Muir is going to be fast and speedy. But [Dominguez] was a fast and speedy team, too. We’ll be alright.”

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