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WEEK TEN FOOTBALL: Gahr’s last hope for playoff berth ends with another loss on Downey’s home field

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

DOWNEY-Throughout most of the season, Gahr High’s football team has had trouble holding second half leads, losing four games in which it led at halftime. The latest of those blown halftime leads came against Paramount High on Oct. 19, squandering a 34-19 advantage and falling to the San Gabriel Valley League champions 55-45.

Gahr ventured into Allen Layne Stadium on the Downey High campus last Friday, a place that hasn’t been too kind for the Gladiators, or head coach Greg Marshall. This time, there would be no second half collapse as the Vikings led 21-7 at the break and rolled to a 42-27 win. Gahr, which was tied with Downey for third place, ends the season at 3-7 overall, 2-3 in league play. In addition, Marshall has lost seven straight times at Downey and since 1998, Gahr is 1-16 against the Vikings with nine of those losses coming on the road.

“Because they have a lot of good football players,” Marshall said of the road woes at Downey. “Downey is good. They had a lot of guys missing and they were hard to handle. We have to play a very clean game and we have to be really good.”

Downey struck first but the Gladiators tied the game with 7:51 left in the first half when senior quarterback Jordan Simpson threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Aaron Okaro. That would be all the scoring Gahr would get until the fourth quarter. The Gladiators would be held to 136 yards in the first half and had two third quarter possessions lasting a total of 2:28 and producing 39 yards. But Gahr, already down 35-7, scored on all three of its fourth quarter drives, beginning with a Simpson 14-yard run with 8:37 left to play in the game. After the Vikings scored their final touchdown of the game, Simpson found senior wide receiver Marcelous Hayes for a 12-yard score with 3:37 remaining and a 66-yard strike with 65 seconds left.

Gahr senior running back Micah Bernard was frustrated by the Downey defense all night long, gaining 102 yards on just 11 carries. He only had four gains of 12 yards or better but ended the season with 716 yards, a big drop from the 2,411 he gained last season. The University of Utah commit also caught four passes for 48 yards.

“Well, he kept us together,” Marshall said. “Obviously, with the nature of the game today, a lot of people are after him and he stayed and showed his loyalty to us. He’s a loyal guy and he’s a Gahr guy. He’s had some pretty good years here.”

Simpson completed 18 of 34 passes for 228 yards and added another 19 yards on 16 carries. Half of his carries went for negative yardage. Hayes caught five passes for 90 yards while Okaro was the recipient of four of those completions for 53 yards. But for the third straight game and fourth time this season, Gahr’s defense allowed at least 40 points.

“In a normal defensive year, we would be in the playoffs,” Marshall said. “And, we had to put a new offense in, so it was all brand new. The offense performed well under circumstance, but that was probably the worst defensive team we’ve had. [The offense] score more than enough points for us to be a playoff team.”

Gahr was seeking its third straight trip to the playoffs following a pair of eight-win seasons. But Gahr’s losing mark in league play was the program’s seventh in the last nine seasons and to get to the playoffs in the tough SGVL, you need to win at least three league games. The Gladiators have been 3-2 or better in league action five times since 1998.

“Who would have thought we would have had a big lead on Paramount last week,” Marshall questioned. “We couldn’t hold on; we just didn’t have enough bodies. Again today, we were just moving guys around in the second half.”