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WEEK 5 FOOTBALL: Norwalk struggles with John Glenn, but captures 15th consecutive Mayor’s Trophy

 John Glenn High senior tailback Carlos Pulido (foreground) is determined to get past Norwalk High senior defensive tackle Jordan Rodriguez in last Friday’s night Mayor’s Trophy game. Pulido led everyone with 118 yards on 18 carries but it was Norwalk which came away with a 20-14 victory, the 15th straight win over the Eagles. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, contributing photographer.




By Loren Kopff



The Norwalk High football program has been kings of the city for well over a decade, but John Glenn High is beginning to put a dent in that domination. In the closest game in this rivalry since 2004, the host Lancers had to hold off a late Glenn rally for a 20-14 win last Friday night at Excelsior Stadium that was marred by a truckload of penalties, touchdowns being called back and a pair of turnovers by each team.

Norwalk (5-1 overall, 2-0 in the Suburban League) has won 15 straight games in the series, but had outscored the Eagles 284-20 since 2012. The 34 combined points in this contest were the fewest in this rivalry since 2006 when Norwalk posted a 19-0 shutout.

“It only takes a few minutes to get fired up and to get ready to play your crosstown rival,” said Norwalk head coach Otis Harrison. “Forget the records all the time. In this case, you actually have one hell of a program [that Glenn head coach Vince] Lobendahn is building over there. So, this was a tough win.

“I would have like to see a little less yellow,” he continued. “But we’ll take the win. There’s no such thing as an ugly win in my family.”

“At this point I thought maybe I could match up D-line physically, take away their inside run and force them to throw,” Lobendahn said. “But one, they got successful at some other rollout plays. There were some nice catches out there for [Norwalk junior quarterback Brionne] Penny. But overall, we were competitive. We just left a little money out there, too, offensively speaking.”

The Lancers began the game on long drive that lasted just over seven minutes and covered 84 yards. Senior running back Brandon Barrett ended the 16-play drive with a seven-yard run, Glenn’s opening drive would take up the rest the quarter and continue in the second quarter. On third and goal from the eight-yard line, Glenn junior quarterback David Sanchez thought he had thrown a touchdown pass to senior tight end Carlos Manriquez. But the play was called back due to a holding penalty and on the next play, Sanchez was picked off by sophomore cornerback Daniel Onopa at the one two minutes into the stanza. While the play did not lead to another Norwalk score, it may have been the play of the game.

“I thought the safety [in the third quarter] gave us enough juice because we knew offensively, we’re capable of going anytime, anywhere on them,” Lobendahn said. “I thought [the interception] was a killer on our momentum too.”

“I think every play we made was pretty big,” Harrison said. “That was just as big as any because they had the momentum, they had the ball and they were going to score. That quarterback is a killer back there and that team loves playing for him. I’ll always take a turnover that close because I was holding my breath.”

Later in the quarter, Penny had a 40-yard touchdown run called back because of a holding infraction, which would be a theme in the game. Then in the same drive, senior running back Billy Moore’s three-yard score was negated by another holding penalty. On the next play, Penny went in from 12 yards out with 31.6 seconds remaining in the half. The Lancers would have over twice as many yards by halftime, but the Eagles would toughen up a bit in the second half.

Both teams would trade turnovers in the third quarter and with 4:21 left in the third quarter, the Lancers were pinned back at their own four-yard line. Less than a minute later, senior defensive tackle Anthony Lovett sacked Barnett in the end zone for a safety. On Glenn’s next possession, senior running back Carlos Pulido gave his team some life with an 11-yard touchdown run.

The score would remain 12-8 until 3:17 remained when Penny cashed in from two yards out. He would lead Norwalk with 80 yards rushing on 11 carries while completing five of seven passes for 72 yards.

“He’s coming back from a few injuries and everything and I think they threw a few different looks that maybe kind of threw him off,” Harrison said. “I chew him out all the time, so now it’s just trying to be supportive in game six of the season. But what I like about him is his dedication to the team and his willingness to kind of put his body out there and sacrifice it.”

“He’s a great ball player,” Moore said. “He’s an amazing player. He’s very young too, so he has a long way to go. So, we try to guide him in every way and he guides us too as well.”

Glenn (4-2, 1-1) got the ball at its own 29-yard line and in 2:23, Sanchez engineered a 10-play drive with six rushes and a pair of pass plays to junior wide receiver Tim Stevenson. The last play of the drive was an eight-yard run with 44.1 seconds remaining in the game.

“They came out really hard,” Moore said. “We stayed humble and we just played ball. It was a whole team effort. We were expecting them to be tough. We didn’t take them for granted. We tried to make our game plan just right.”

The Lancers racked up a little over 300 yards on the ground on 55 carries while Glenn was basically a two-man show in the rushing department with Pulido gaining 118 yards on 18 carries while Sanchez added another 88 yards on 17 touches. Sanchez was also 14 of 24 for 133 yards with Stevenson catching seven of those for 76 yards.

“On film, they’ve been getting better every year,” Harrison said; “It’s real easy to see that and knowing Lobendahn and knowing how those guys work, they have tremendous work ethics. So, that all feeds into it. We were just hoping our guys could recognize the importance of it because it’s always hard…if you’ve beaten someone before, it’s always easy for them to get motivated to try to beat you once.”

“If you look at the history, we’ve averaged given up 500 yards,” Lobendahn said. “The numbers are ridiculous. To keep them manageable, I think 300 is where we’re at, that was enough. And, forcing them to have to give up the ball at times in drives that they didn’t want to…that’s where my defense showed up.”

Defensively, Moore and Penny each had four tackles while the Eagles were paced by senior linebacker Anthony Nava’s eight tackles. The game, however, was marred by penalties that did not set well with both coaches. Norwalk was flagged 19 times for 172 yards with eight of them being of the holding variety. The Eagles saw the yellow laundry go against them 13 times for 110 yards with the one crucial touchdown called back.

“It’s ridiculous, and it’s my proposal that the officials are privy to sideline huddles at halftime so that they can review because we’ve had some flat out bad calls,” Harrison said. “Officials affect the game in the pros, so they definitely affect the game at the high school level. I’ve tried to be liberal and politically correct as I can, but…believe in what you’re saying. And what I’m saying the officiating at this level has got to get better.”

“I think Otis made a comment to me earlier when we spoke and I’m going to agree with him that we get drained of the better referees to these higher games that are out there,” Lobendahn said. “Mission Viejo-Santa Margarita, Mater Dei-[Concord] De La Salle, something like that. Sometimes the groups we get left with are groups that are really trying to practice something. Maybe they’re focusing on something and it really takes away from us. I would rather have less laundry, let us play the physical matchups and see what turns out. But out of nowhere, if you can see holding in a scrum, you’ve got some eyeglasses I don’t even know of. That’s unbelievable.”

Norwalk, the 10th ranked team in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 8 poll, will visit arch nemesis La Mirada High tonight at Goodman Stadium while the Eagles, who are still receiving some consideration in Division 13, will host Artesia High, another team whose offense is like that of Glenn.

“We believe that everybody should be able to play,” Harrison said. “So, it won’t surprise us if several guys touch the ball. That’s the way we practice. We don’t try to have guys practice and not play. It’s our sixth game of the year and we should be playing a whole lot more guys because we travel with 47 guys. We expect everybody to be able to play, especially if we’re able to run the ball.”

“We’re not going to let that battle between the two of us go,” Lobendahn said of the rivalry with Norwalk, which had been in doubt after this year. “We want to believe that our city deserves an opportunity [for us] to face them every year. I’m going to do my best to find an opening for him next year and I believe that [Otis is] going to do the same.”