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COMMENTARY: John Glenn football ends years of agony against crosstown rival

John Glenn High’s football team finally celebrates the program’s first Mayor’s Cup since 2002 after crushing Norwalk High 48-7 last Friday night at Excelsior Stadium. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

One look at several John Glenn High players and a few coaches following their game with crosstown rival Norwalk High last Friday night told the whole story. There were tears, but these were happy tears, and no one would ask why they were crying.

It was very evident why they were so emotional as the Eagles smashed the Lancers 48-7 to win the Mayor’s Cup, the trophy that goes to the victor of this rivalry. It was Glenn’s first win over Norwalk since 2002. There hasn’t been much to be happy about or cheer for as it relates to Glenn football the past 15 seasons. Against the purple and gold, the Eagles were blanked three straight times from 2004-2006 and six times overall. They lost games by scores of 41-0, 64-7, 63-0, 60-6, 59-0 and 56-0. Some were even wondering why it was still a rivalry when Norwalk was clearly the dominant team in the area.

“There’s been a bad vibe at Glenn and it’s just perpetual with the years,” said Glenn head coach Vince Lobendahn. “So, that has been here for a while. It’s been stuck in this rut and they’ve tried. It’s just a lot of kids committed to what we were doing; the weight room, the offseason and then it led to just…my kids are muscle memory. They know their plays because we do it over and over and over.”

During the same 15 seasons, Norwalk has had eight winning seasons, has finished no worse than third place in the Suburban League 10 times and has advanced to the CIF-Southern Section playoffs 11 straight times. But, the tide could be shifting in the city and all points sign for better days ahead for the school that lies on the far east side of town. Norwalk is 0-7 as it enters its bye week and could miss the playoffs when league play begins on Oct. 12. The Lancers face Mayfair High and Bellflower High on the road, both of whom have a combined record of 11-3. Meanwhile, Glenn is 4-3, winners of four of its last five and is an offensive juggernaut 194 in those four wins. One more win will match the total set last season as well as 2009. And since 1998, the Eagles had been the laughing stock of the Suburban League, going 22-102. The program endured four winless overall campaigns and two more seasons of one win.

Now, no one is laughing at Glenn. One victory over Norwalk has already erased all the bad memories from as far back as 1964, the first year the two schools played each other. Norwalk won that game 13-7. In fact, before Norwalk’s 15-game winning streak over the Eagles, it still -led the series 22-16.

But Glenn has had good memories back in the days. They went to the playoffs seven times prior to that 2002 team and won a pair of Inland League championships as well as a pair of Suburban League titles. Yes, this win over Norwalk was bigger than many will ever know.

“Because it means so much to us,” said junior running back Edwin Udengwu. “To everyone on this team, this Mayor’s Cup, this game against Norwalk means everything to the players and even to the coaches who don’t even play on the field.”

Udengwu scored a total of four touchdowns against the Lancers and leads the Eagles with over 1,000 yards on the ground and 16 rushing touchdowns.

“Well, this one is special for me,” Lobendahn said. “I had a brother who coached here, Allen Salanoa, and he was only a year here and he went 0-10. He died a year ago and I went to his funeral in Hawai’i. I spoke at his funeral and I brought him to John Glenn from eastern Arizona, Thatcher. He was the offensive coordinator there. And when he went 0-10, I was the freshman coach and we went 9-1. He wanted me to come up with him and I said I can’t right now. I wanted to work with my kids. So, this means a lot to my family as well as [former head coaches] Joey Parra, Ken Mason, Anthony Wilson, Willie Norman.

“I’m thankful that throughout all the years I’ve gotten to know…in the 20 years I’ve been here, what we’ve been through,” he continued. “So, to carry all those guys out there with me every year, it’s nice to be able to help and reward them.”

Glenn is ranked ninth in the Division 12 poll and will face a trio of 605 League teams that also have long playoff droughts but have a combined mark of 12-6. Artesia High last made the playoffs in 2008. Cerritos High hasn’t played an 11thgame since 2001 while Pioneer High has had 11 losing seasons since 2004 and has won 40 games since that time before this season.

If Glenn is happy right now, just think what it will be like when the Eagles get back to the playoffs, and/or win a playoff game.