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WEEK 7 FOOTBALL: Red zone interceptions dim playoff chances for John Glenn in loss to Bellflower

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

 

BELLFLOWER-John Glenn High’s football team was already enjoying a successful season by its standards, having picked up five victories, the most since 2009. One more win would strengthen the Eagles’ chances of a possible berth in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section divisional playoffs for the first time since 2002.

But a lack of intensity by the team, multiple missed tackles by the defense and three interceptions thrown by junior quarterback David Sanchez in the red zone all led to a 20-14 loss to Bellflower High last Friday night at Ron Yary Stadium. The Eagles dropped to 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the Suburban League. A win would have left the Eagles tied with La Mirada High for second place, but now, they are tied with Norwalk High for third place. The loss was especially hard for Glenn head coach Vince Lobendahn to take, since he missed most of the week leading up to the game to have surgery on his neck, which on Oct. 10 required two vertebrae to be replaced.

“This one is on me,” Lobendahn said. “They can’t be down for them. This week I wasn’t there for them; I had surgery. This whole one is on me. I just feel that in preparation for the game, I know that the small things matter. The way you start, the way you start your work week, the way you end your work week. I didn’t have a fingerprint on it, so I couldn’t see where the pulse of the team was.”

Glenn was driving in the opening minutes, but on the fifth of the game, Sanchez was picked off by James Lindsay at the Bellflower 20-yard line, who returned it all the way to Glenn’s 32-yard line. Five plays later, the Buccaneers scored on an eight-yard pass from Joseph Garza to J’Lon Manning.

The Eagles were primed to shake off that conversion of the turnover and thanks to the running of senior tailback Carlos Pulido, had driven to the six-yard line. After losing two yards on a running play, Sanchez threw to a wide-open Tim Stevenson in the end zone on third down. But the junior wide receiver was unable to haul in the would-be touchdown. Then on fourth down, James Womack V intercepted Sanchez at the three. While that miscue didn’t lead to any points, the next time the Eagles got the ball, another long drive went without a score.

Glenn began its third possession of the game at its own 36-yard line and Pulido gained 34 yards on the first seven plays. Later, and facing fourth and 12 from the Bucs 23-yard line, Sanchez missed senior tight end Carlos Manriquez in the back of the end zone. Bellflower would score two plays later on a 32-yard pass play from Garza to Omari Okeke.

“With the interceptions, you’re trying to get your reads,” Lobendahn said. “The red zone is not a place to have the falter. That was definitely difficult. And I thought the read was there, meaning the play that we had called.

“Letting money go through your hands isn’t a way for us to be happy or successful,” Lobendahn added on the missed scoring chances in the end zone.

Glenn would have back to back 12-play drives in the first half and snapped the ball 38 times in the first half. But it would finally get on the board on its first possession of the second half, a 15-yard run from Sanchez with Pulido adding a two-point conversion run. The score would remain 12-8 until early in the fourth quarter when Lobendahn decided to run a play on fourth and two from the Glenn 12-yard line. But senior Gerardo Godoy was stopped for a one-yard loss and another Garza to Okeke connection extended the lead to 20-8 with 9:27 remaining in the game.

“We have a quick play that we thought we could get off,” Lobendahn said of going for it on fourth down. “We’ve been working on it and right when we did it, our back went out with a wrist injury So, we switched backs and he didn’t know the plays.”

The Eagles put together their longest drive of the game following Bellflower’s touchdown, consisting of 16 plays and lasting nearly five minutes. But like the first two drives of the game, Sanchez was intercepted at the Bellflower six-yard line by Lindsay. However, he would fumble the ball at the 30-yard line and it took one play for Glenn to make it interesting as Manriquez caught a 30-yard score from Sanchez.

After forcing the Buccaneers to punt, the Eagles had 1:40 to get a tying touchdown. But the drive stalled at the Glenn 40-yard line and the hosts ran out the clock. Pulido picked up 101 yards on 24 carries while Sanchez added 43 yards on 17 more carries. Sanchez was also 21 of 39 for 198 yards while on defense, senior William Keith had eight tackles while senior free safety Adrian Manzanares added half a dozen tackles while senior defensive end Dimitri Hernandez chipped in with five tackles and two sacks.

The Eagles will now take a well-deserved week off and won’t resume to action until Oct. 27 when they host La Mirada. The last game of the regular season will be a road test at league-leading Mayfair High.

“Well, we need rest,” Lobendahn said. “Getting these first seven games through was rough enough as it is. I’m down two linemen in this game, one on defense and one on offense. In the end, I’m needing to be healthy by the time we get out of this bye week.”

No matter what happens with the final two games, this season has been somewhat of a turning-the-page ordeal for the Glenn football program. Having been labeled as a floundering program for the better part of 14 seasons, in which Glenn teams went a combined 27-113 with only one non-losing campaign, the Eagles have left an impression with the rest of Division 13 that it can compete for the playoffs.

“In the end, the improvements are nice, but our goal was to get this sixth win,” Lobendahn said. “We have to readjust our plans and go after the monsters that are there in front of me. I know both La Mirada and Mayfair are in front of me, but it is what it is. They can line up and make mistakes and I can line up and make mistakes.”