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By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

Last season, Artesia High running back Jordan Benoit was nearly a one-man show when the Pioneers faced John Glenn High, rushing for 345 yards and scoring five touchdowns on the ground that totaled 273 yards. Now a senior, Benoit was up to his old tricks against the Eagles again, this time on Artesia’s homecoming where it was all about the ‘city nights’.

Benoit scored five touchdowns again, four on the ground, and rushed for 155 yards on 23 carries as Artesia outlasted Glenn 48-27 last Friday night. Benoit has now rushed for 744 yards on 86 carries this season and has scored all but two rushing touchdowns the Pioneers have put on the board.

“It’s nothing really personal,” Benoit said about playing Glenn. “I feel like I have to try my best every time and run as hard as I can every time I get the ball. It just happens every time I run the ball.”

The win improved Artesia’s mark to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the Suburban League. The five victories are two shy of the combined total from the previous two seasons and the Pioneers are off to their best league start since 2008 when Artesia won its first three league games. That was also the school’s last trip to the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section playoffs.

“We’ll take it,” said Artesia head coach Joe Veach. “We’ve had a lot of home games [this season] and you always hope to win all of your home games. We’ve played some teams that are going through some rough patches. But I think that we’ve gotten better each week on offense. We’ve moved the ball against everybody and we’ve played just enough defense, it seems like, that we keep getting wins.”

Artesia was up 28-14 at the half when Glenn began the second half on a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown run from junior running back Carlos Pulido. The Pioneers responded with a drive that took nearly five minutes off the clock and ended with a Benoit one-yard score. That’s when Artesia decided to make the game interesting.

Senior kicker Frankie Sierra was successful on an onside kick and ended the drive with a 37-yard field goal with 1:13 left in the third quarter. The big play of the drive was a 30-yard pass play from sophomore quarterback Heder Gladden to senior wide receiver Rian Hughing that was tipped by Glenn junior cornerback Gerardo Godoy.

The Pioneers went for another onside kick, were successful again, and the ensuing drive also ended in a Sierra field goal, this one from 24 yards out just 55 seconds into the fourth quarter, making the score 41-21. Artesia would then seal the game when Gladden scored on an 11-yard run just five plays after sophomore linebacker Leroy Gladden picked off sophomore quarterback David Sanchez on the first play following Sierra’s second field goal.

“Frankie’s a great kicker,” Veach said. “He’s such a good soccer player; he’s so skilled with his feet, obviously. After it was a two-score game, we wanted to take a chance if we thought it was there.”

This was the second game in a row that got away from the Eagles quickly in the third quarter. After playing Norwalk High to a scoreless first quarter and 7-7 at halftime the previous week, Glenn was outscored 19-7 in the third quarter as the Lancers went on to a 46-14 victory.

“Even in the second half, I felt there was a little momentum,” said Glenn head coach Vince Lobendahn. “Then they onside me and…if those are legal kicks, I’m impressed.”

From the way the game began, it appeared that this was going to be a back and forth shootout. Benoit scored from five yards out on the first possession of the game only to see the Eagles (1-5, 0-2) tie the game with 5:28 remaining in the stanza on a Sanchez six-yard run. But four plays later, Benoit hauled in a 37-yard pass from Heder Gladden and the Pioneers would maintain the lead the rest of the way. Benoit would add touchdown runs of 11 yards and one yard in the second quarter and has found the end zone four times from the ground twice this season.

“Jordan played good,” Veach said. “I thought we blocked well up front. I thought they gave us some looks that took away a lot of our offense, but also opened up some things.”

“Literally, he encompassed my whole defense,” Lobendahn said. “We had our corners, safeties, backers, linemen all taking away the fly and even when we were trying to take it away, he gets outside. And it didn’t look as bad this year. It showed up on paper as five [touchdowns]. But we felt we had some bottling happening and then boom, and inside counter or an outside quarterback keeper.

Benoit has reached 100 yards rushing four times this season but still leads the league in rushing and in touchdowns scored. In fact, his 17 total touchdowns are nearly three times more than the next player.

“Every Saturday after a game, I go on MaxPreps.com and check how many yards I have,” Benoit said. “And then the upcoming week, I’ll [say], ‘okay, for this week I want 200 yards and this [number] of touchdowns this game’.”

Glenn tried to make it game nearly halfway through the second quarter and received a three-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to sophomore wide receiver Tim Stevenson. The last Glenn score of the game came with 81 seconds remaining when Sanchez tossed a 14-yard strike to sophomore wide receiver Keith Shanklin.

“They are so much improved from the last couple of years and I told the kids all week, ‘this is not the Glenn that we’ve played the last couple of years and if you think that way, they’re going to beat us’,” Veach said. “They’re doing a great job over there and their quarterback is a good, little athlete. He throws the ball where it needs to be.”

“We had to let the guys know this game isn’t over and it’s not going to be easy, and we had to come back in the second half and do what we’re supposed to do,” Benoit said about the talk in the locker room at halftime.

Sanchez completed 18 of 29 passes for 229 yards with Stevenson the recipient of seven of those completions for 61 yards. Shanklin and junior Carlos Manriquez each caught four passes for 93 and 63 yards respectively. The Eagles, who have assured themselves of at least their 19th straight non-winning season, will host Bellflower High tonight at Excelsior Stadium.

“They don’t have the double hit here but they have skills,” Lobendahn said of Bellflower. “You know they’re going to have that. Their record isn’t great, but they might be playing a lot better opponents than I’m playing. So I can’t see until I get it all in the film room. We’re willing to go after people. I’ve got a few players who I’ll go after. I know where I can find some success on the defense. That’s what we’re looking to do. But, on the other side of the ball, we need stops to help my offense continue to get back out there.”

Besides Benoit doing his thing, Heder Gladden was double trouble for the Glenn defense, completing 13 passes in 21 attempts for 170 as well as rushing for 140 yards on 13 carries.

“Heder is a great athlete,” Veach said. “He wasn’t with us that much in the spring for a number of reasons. Then in the summer we were bouncing him back and forth from quarterback to receiver and even in the first two games, he didn’t start at quarterback. But ever game, he just gets better and better.”

On defense, senior Armando Pacheco and junior linebacker Xavier Yoakum each led the Pioneers with eight tackles. Now, Artesia will have the tall task of slowing down a hot La Mirada High team which has posted consecutive 62-0 shutouts against Cerritos High and Norwalk High.

“La Mirada is great and they’re a really good team,” Veach said. “They play good football and their coaches do a good job over there. But they’re kids just like our kids are kids and we have to go out there and play them. I think we can do some things.”

“It’s going to be tough, I’m not going to lie,” Benoit said. “They’re good almost every year, basically. But I think we have a good chance to run the ball against them. And we have a good quarterback, so we can pass the ball a little bit. As long as we execute, we’ll do good.”