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WEEK 2 FOOTBALL: Gahr makes it a baker’s dozen against Cerritos, limits Dons to single digits again

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter


Sometimes in a blowout loss, the final score tends to be a bit misleading and really doesn’t tell the whole story. Such was the case when Gahr High blasted longtime city rival Cerritos High 48-0 last Friday night at Hanford Rants Stadium.

Both head coaches agreed that Cerritos, which has now lost 13 games in this rivalry, is better than the final score indicated. But, the fact to matter is this was the seventh shutout (third worst) in this 13-game losing streak to the Gladiators with the Dons being outscored 554-56.

“I think that’s a much improved football team,” said Gahr head coach Greg Marshall of Cerritos. “I thought we would pressure them a little bit more early but we didn’t get to the quarterback. Thank goodness we played some secondary this week; we haven’t been playing very well in the secondary. So, that was a positive sign.”

“The rivalry adrenalin wears off after a handful of plays,” said Cerritos co-head coach Barry Thomas. “So, what you saw in the first quarter is what I believe we’re capable of. It’s just putting it together and tonight, we ran out of bullets. We got out-hit in the second half.”

Thomas was referring to the first quarter and had to be pleased with what he saw. On Gahr’s first drive of the game, Cerritos senior defensive back Christian King picked off senior quarterback E.J. Gonzalez in the end zone, stopping a nine-play drive that began back at Gahr’s 27-yard line.

Cerritos (0-3) couldn’t do much with that and after punting for the second time, it took the Gladiators five plays to get on a board, a six-yard run from junior running back Micah Bernard. Three plays into the ensuing Cerritos possession, Gahr senior cornerback Jeremy Matthews intercepted a pass from senior Colby Nielsen and the Gladiators parlayed that into a five-yard touchdown run from junior Michael Childress almost three minutes into the second quarter.

Despite another Nielsen interception, the Dons were hanging right with the Gladiators (2-1) until the final 74 seconds of the half. First, senior running back Ugonna Olumba scored from 18 yards out. Then senior cornerback Miles Johnson returned a blocked punt for a touchdown with 17 seconds remaining to seal the game and send the hosts into the locker room with a 27-0 advantage.

Even though Gahr had a four-touchdown lead at the break and even though Bernard had piled up 142 yards on 12 carries in the first 24 minutes, Marshall was still concerned about his defense going up against a Cerritos offense that has former Gahr offensive coordinator Jon Nielsen helping the Dons in a similar position. Colby Nielsen completed his first six passes for 47 yards and ended the game 16 of 25 for 104 yards with senior wide receiver Eric Baker hauling in seven of those for 58 yards.

“I’ve seen that game before,” Marshall said. “Especially, once they get going, it’s hard to stop them. I thought defensively we did a good job. They know what they’re doing in their passing game and we have to be more disciplined. It took a little bit of adjustment. They rolled out and did a couple of things different.

“I know that offense, obviously,” he continued. “So, I know what defenses we need to be in and we needed to do those things. Now, the key to that was we were able to stop the run game with five in the box.”

“He’s going to get better, even better from here because he hasn’t even scratched the surface of what’s he’s capable of as far as his pre-snap read and his post-snap reads,” Thomas said of his signal caller. “He’s getting where he’s supposed to be. Colby’s going to be fine.”

Cerritos was in no hurry to go away that quick as King intercepted a Gonzalez pass on the second play of the third quarter and returned it to the Gahr 45-yard line. But the drive stalled and when Gahr got the ball again, Childress caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Gonzalez. Gahr’s next score would be a 66-yard punt return down the Gahr sideline from senior free safety Aaron Hawk and Bernard capped off the scoring with a 53-yard run with 2:49 remining in the third quarter. Bernard outgained Cerritos with 214 yards on 15 carries in just three quarters while Olumba added another 68 yards on six carries.

“Actually, he played pretty well last week,” Marshall said. “This week, he was hurt and he wasn’t even going to play. So, he didn’t practice; he said he was a little off. He didn’t play up to his capabilities because he didn’t [have a full week of] practice.

“I didn’t think they were going to play that defense,” Marshall added. “They played a soft shell on us. That’s why it was very important we were able to run the ball because if not, we were going to be in trouble because they were sitting back there.”

On defense, the Gladiators were paced by senior cornerback Brad Harbin (five tackles) and five other players with three tackles a piece. That defense limited the Dons to 21 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, Cerritos safety Ryder Eddy led the Dons with 10 tackles while King had four and a half tackles and the two interceptions and senior linebacker Matt Fernandez added four tackles.

“Getting Christian King eligible was huge, obviously,” Thomas said. “He’s a smart, talented football player. Ryder came to play tonight with big hits and his hustle…Ryder is Ryder. If we can play consistently for four quarters, I think we’ll be alright.”

Cerritos moves on to host Beverly Hills High tonight in a battle of winless teams, Gahr will visit Artesia High (3-0), hoping to retain the Silver Milk Barrell for the fourth year in a row and eighth time in the last nine seasons. Even with Gahr’s dominance over the other two ABC Unified School District schools that field a football program, the debate will continue as to whether the Cerritos-Gahr rivalry is just that. Since 1998, Gahr is now 14-6 over the Dons and is 13-6 over the Pioneers.

“Of course it is,” Marshall said. “Heck yeah it is; without a doubt. You get nervous as hell for these games, especially this week because offensively we’ve been struggling. I knew they were going to throw the football and we hadn’t played well in the secondary. It’s always fun to play those guys. They play hard and I thought they had an opportunity to do some things.”

“Since I’ve been here, it hasn’t been a rivalry,” Thomas said. “I’m going to be honest with you; it hasn’t been. I’m a [Long Beach] Poly kid and [Long Beach] Wilson’s not a rival. You have to win some to be a rival. It’s a big game because it’s in your city between two schools in the same city. But, I don’t consider it a rivalry until we can make more noise. Hopefully we can turn it around.”