_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES _______________________


WEEK TEN FOOTBALL: Davis, Gladden power Artesia to first outright 605 League title

October 29, 2018
By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

At times, the Artesia High football team didn’t play as crisp of a game it wanted to against host Cerritos High in the regular season finale for both teams. But the only thing that mattered to the Pioneers was staying hot entering the CIF-Southern Section Division 12 playoffs.

Senior running back Travys Davis rushed for 270 yards on 12 carries and scored five touchdowns and senior quarterback added another 144 yards on eight carries and accounted for three more touchdowns as Artesia rushed past Cerritos 56-26 last Friday night at Dr. Hanford Rants Stadium. Artesia, which had already cliched at least a share of the 605 League title, enters the postseason with a 7-3 overall mark and 3-0 in league action. It’s Artesia’s first league title since 1992 and its first trip to the playoffs since 2008.

“It feels great; it’s something we’ve been kind of waiting for a while,” said Artesia head coach Don Olmstead. “We’re trying to get somewhere where we’re in a more competitive league and I think you saw that tonight. It was a 14-point game at one point and you have to finish teams early or else every team in this league can come back and get you.”

“It sounds amazing to me,” Davis said. “Since [last] November, we’ve always worked hard in the weight room. This is our goal since two years ago since we first landed the [new] league. So, our goal was always 605, but we took it game by game, hopefully gaining experience as we went on.”

Davis put the Pioneers up 14-0 on a 32-yard run and a 29-yard run within his first three touches inside the first 3:17 of the game. After a pair of interceptions by both teams, Gladden found senior wide receiver De’Jon Major for a 48-yard score with 1:44 left in the stanza. Artesia would have the ball for 3:36 of the first quarter and just less than that in the second quarter, but still scored two more touchdowns before halftime.

A 72-yard run from Gladden was followed up by a Davis one-yard run and towards the end of the half, Davis scored from five yards out to make it 35-12 at the time. The Pioneers wouldn’t need the ball that much in the third quarter but added three more touchdowns. On the first play of the second half, Davis ran 76 yards for the lone play of that drive which lasted 20 seconds. After the defense held the Dons on downs, A Davis six-yard gain and a Gladden 41-yard touchdown run was all that was needed for a one-minute drive and a 49-18 lead. When the Pioneers were on offense again, Davis ran for 24 yards and Gladden threw a 41-yard score to junior wide receiver P.J. Holmes. That drive lasted 18 seconds.

“I think it was a combination of us being a little inconsistent in our blocking and also, Artesia’s pretty freakin’ good,” said Cerritos head coach Barry Thomas. “They’re going to the playoffs for a reason. They put up a [billion] yards this year because they have great athletes on both sides of the football. Obviously, the two guys in the backfield are electric, however, they have a bunch of guys on that team. With this week being over, I’m an Artesia fan now and I hope they go far. I think Don has a good thing going.”

Davis had three runs of under 10 yards and four more of over 30 yards. His five-touchdown performance was a season high and he has scored multiple rushing touchdowns in four straight games and six of the last seven contests.

“He’s unbelievable,” Olmstead said. “That’s what he is and we kind of knew that coming in, that Travys and Heder are going to play. I don’t worry about them. It’s the young guys up front that I’m worried about, being mentally ready every week in and week out.”

“Well, of course it all goes to my linemen because they block for me,” Davis said. “They tell me every game, ‘Travys, I got you, Travys, I got you’. They pick me up after every touchdown or every time I’m on the [ground]. All my credit goes to them and all my receivers on the outside. And all my credit really just goes to my father for putting me in camps and working hard throughout every season.”

Cerritos got on the board near the midway part of the second quarter when sophomore safety Nicolas DeGiuseppe returned a Gladden interception 41 yards to the house. It was the second of two interceptions Gladden would throw. Then the Dons recovered the ensuing onside kick and in two plays, junior quarterback Stacy King scored from seven yards out. King would make things interesting with a five-yard score with 25 seconds remaining in the half to put the score at 35-18. The final score of the game came early in the fourth quarter when King threw an eight-yard pass to junior wide receiver Noah Garcia.

“I think [Cerritos] is kind of in the same boat as us,” Olmstead said. “Everybody is kind of thin, so simulating the speed in practice is hard to do. That’s why you see our defense struggle a little bit at the beginning of the game, because the speed of the game is hard to emulate in practice.”

“There’s nothing I can do about that,” Thomas said of his team not quitting. “I can say it until I’m blue in the face. Any coach can tell you, the players are the ones who have to do it. That’s a testament and to them as a group, there are some underclassmen who aren’t afraid to tell seniors, ‘hey man, keep going, keep going, keep going’. Them as a group, they just don’t quit.”

King led Cerritos with 99 yards on 21 carries but was seven of 20 for 100 yards through the air. Senior running back Tye Anderson added 55 yards on 16 carries. But the Dons had 10 rushes go for negative yardage.

The Dons wrap up the season at 3-7 and were winless in three league games. But, the team scored in bunches at times and put up 327 points in 2018. However, the defense yielded over 50 points in four of the last five games and six times this season. Despite the roller coaster of the season and not making the playoffs for the 17thstraight season, the program continues to improve and make strides.

“A lot of the things that are accomplished were accomplished behind the scenes,” Thomas said. “Parent involvement; you’re not going to see that on the stat sheet. You’re not going to see 6:00 a.m. workouts, guys volunteering to come in and workout. Guys volunteering to come in after practice and workout. Guys asking that extra question. Guys helping each other out, keeping each other out of trouble on campus.”

Artesia, the third ranked team in the division, will host Ramona High tonight at 7:30. This will be the first home playoff game for the Pioneers since Nov. 18, 2005 when they fell to Aliso Niguel High 26-24. Since Artesia’s last trip to the playoffs, it had finished in fourth place in the Suburban League four times, going 3-3 in league action three times.

“I think the unfortunate part, when you look at CIF, is seven-league teams don’t get rewarded,” Olmstead said. “And that’s where we’ve been at. We’ve finished fourth [four] of the last six years and we didn’t go to the playoffs where in any other sport, we would have gone to the playoffs. That’s all I wanted, an opportunity to get into the playoffs and see what we can do.”

“Since we always came up short, we’ve always been like, ‘we need one more game, we need to beat Norwalk, we need to beat this team, we need to beat that team’,” Davis said. “So, to walk into playoffs finally as…we’re in, we’re the number one team [in league] going in, it feels amazing.”