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WEEK 3 FOOTBALL: Bernard, Gahr rough up Artesia to keep Silver Milk Barrel again

Milk Barrel: Gahr senior running back Ugonna Olumba hoists the coveted Silver Milk Barrel as the rest of the Gahr High football team celebrates a 47-7 victory over Artesia High last Friday night. The Gladiators have now won the season-series over Artesia and Cerritos High the past four seasons.


By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


Gahr High’s football team was comfortably leading Artesia High early in the second half when the bands of the two ABC Unified School District institutions decided to keep the student bodies entertained. That’s when two went back and forth playing the ever so popular “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes in a game of ‘anything you can do, I can do better’.

It was added excitement for the Gahr faithful as the Gladiators pummeled the host Pioneers 47-7 last Friday night at Atkins Stadium. The win assured the Gladiators of keeping the Silver Milk Barrel at their school for a fourth consecutive season and eighth in the last nine.

“That’s always a good thing; holding on to that,” said Gahr head coach Greg Marshall. “I was telling the guys, ‘you don’t want to be the senior class that gives this up’. It’s still very special to have it because it stays in our football office and the kids take great pride in that.”

Gahr now has identical 13-6 records against Artesia and Cerritos since 1998 and has proven to the rest of the district that their football program is tops among the three schools.

The Gladiators (3-1 overall) would score on four of five first half possessions and junior Micah Bernard would be a big part of their offense in the first 24 minutes. He scored on runs of 80 and 10 yards within the first six times he touched the ball and already had 117 yards on seven carries when the first quarter had ended. In fact, Bernard began to think about the barrel after he scored the second touchdown saying, ‘this is too easy and if we keep going, we’re going to get the jug’.

While the Pioneers struggled to get much going on offense, the Gladiators continued to add to their lead as junior wide receiver Nathan Rhodes hauled in a 15-yard scoring pass from senior quarterback E. J. Gonzalez to make it a 20-0 contest with 7:39 left in the half. Rhodes would catch six passes for 112 yards.

Meanwhile, the longest drive by the Pioneers (2-1) all night produced the lone score. Beginning at their own 21-yard line following a penalty, Artesia took nearly five minutes off the clock, running 11 plays, which ended when junior quarterback Heder Gladden snuck in from a yard out. Gladden, who completed only four passes, would be the team’s leading rusher with 32 yards on 10 carries.

“We just didn’t play well,” said Artesia first-year head coach Don Olmstead. “We practiced okay, but we have to play perfect. When we play good, we can beat a lot of teams. When we play bad, we can lose to any team. We made some good plays, but we didn’t make enough to keep it close early.”

“They have that running back and quarterback, which is weird because they don’t throw it very well,” Marshall said. “So, we just loaded the box whereas last week, we unloaded the box. It’s a totally different game. So, we changed the game plan for them because we knew they had the quarterback and running back.”

With the score 20-7, the Pioneers were hoping to stop the Gladiators with less than three minutes remaining in the half, knowing that Gahr would get the ball to begin the third quarter. But the visitors marched 89 yards on nine plays, converting on a key fourth and nine from the Artesia 44-yard line. With 16.1 ticks left in the half, the Gonzalez to Rhodes connection did its thing again, this time for 23 yards. That score would be crucial because the Gladiators put the game way almost four minutes into the third quarter when Bernard scored from three yards out, ending an eight-play drive.

“That’s the ballgame,” Olmstead said. “We go into halftime down 13 points, it’s not a big deal. Thirteen and 20 at the half is a big difference. I know it’s only one score, but moral and everything…that’s a big seven points they scored before half.”

The Pioneers would go three and out in their next two possessions, gaining four yards in the process while Gahr continued to pound the ball on the ground. Senior running back Ugonna Olumnba thwarted off several tacklers to score from 15 yards out late in the stanza. Then senior Jai Stanton ended a long 14-play drive that took 8:33 in the fourth quarter with a one-yard run to cap off the scoring. Gahr would blister Artesia’s defense for 310 yards on 42 carries.

“Their movement up front gave us problems tonight,” Olmstead said. “We kind of knew that coming in. They’re nose [tackle] played pretty well. That’s what we kept on talking about [to the coaches] on the headsets…is we’re having problems blocking him. That’s where it all starts.”

“That was our game plan,” Bernard said. “We wanted to run the ball and that’s what we did. My front line was doing good and they got the push and I just finished it.”

In addition, Gonzalez completed 11 of 17 passes for 180 yards and on defense, senior free safety Aaron Hawk had five tackles while junior cornerback Kyle Veazie pitched in with four tackles. During the four-game winning streak, Gahr has outscored the Pioneers 166-40. In fact, since 2009, Gahr has held both Artesia and Cerritos to single digits 11 times in 16 games.

“It’s tradition; it’s the one part of our season where okay, this is what we’re playing for,” Marshall said. “They want it, we want it, [the barrel] sits in our office and the kids see it every day. So, that’s just part of it.”

“It feels great, man,” Bernard said. “I’ve been thinking about this day since last year. I just wanted to repeat everything again, but this time win a championship. So, this game meant a lot.”

The Pioneers were held to under 100 yards and ran 36 plays prior to Gahr’s final touchdown. Sophomore linebacker LaQuan Ware-Morales led the Artesia defense with seven tackles while junior Travys Davis had six tackles and senior linebacker Xavier Yoakum another five. The Pioneers will host Fountain Valley High tonight while the Gladiators have a rematch with St. Anthony High tonight, the team that knocked Gahr out of the first round playoffs last season.

“That’s athletics in general,” Olmstead said. “You can’t expect to win every single game and it’s how you react after a loss. So, our kids are going to be tested.”

“Next week is going to show us how far we’ve come,” Marshall said. “Obviously, they have a pretty good tradition going on over there and they have some kids in and they’re going to be a major task. I always try to schedule our fifth game versus someone that looks like…okay, this is what league is going to look like for five games.”