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CIF-SS DIVISION 12 FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME : Artesia’s dream season comes to an end in thumping by Linfield Christian

Artesia High senior cornerback Demarco Burton tries to tackle Linfield Christian High’s Kaleb Maresh in last Saturday night’s CIF-Southern Section Division 12 championship game. Linfield Christian captured the title in the 70-32 rout. Maresh, who is the quarterback for the Lions, rushed seven times for 79 yards.


By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

MURRIETA-The 2018 Artesia High football team has been built around senior quarterback Heder Gladden and senior running back Travys Davis, plus a few supporting role players on offense. Despite a 605 League championship and a berth in the CIF-Southern Section Division 12 title game, the Pioneers lacked the depth that most teams have when they get to that 14thgame of a season.

Artesia’s ride through the playoffs came to a screeching halt as top-ranked Linfield Christian High rolled up 657 yards of offense, including a punishing 515 yards on the ground and blasted the third-ranked Pioneers 70-32 last Saturday night at Ram Stadium on the Murrieta Mesa High campus. The Pioneers, making their first trip to a divisional finals, end their best season in school history at 10-4.

“Tonight’s not about this game,” said Artesia head coach Don Olmstead. “It’s about the stuff that we’ve done; the league championship we won, the three games in the playoffs we won. That’s what it’s about. My view is when you get to the CIF title [game], you’re kind of playing with house money. You go in and hope your kids play well and see where the chips lie. But we just didn’t play great, especially in the second half and that’s the result.”

Artesia, as has been the case all season long, kept feeding the ball to Davis and Gladden, who accounted for all 48 carries and 345 yards on the ground. But the Lions countered with Kenric Jameison, who totaled over 200 yards and scored three times, and Crispin Wong, who added another 147 yards on 11 carries and scored three touchdowns on successive fourth quarter drives.

Artesia struck first when Gladden found junior wide receiver P.J. Holmes open for an 83-yard score on the game’s third play from scrimmage. The Lions answered back when Jamieson bolted loose for a 61-yard touchdown run on the second play for the hosts. The Pioneers then regained the lead 3:44 later when Gladden capped off a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a touchdown throw of 10 yards to senior wide receiver Marcel Bowman.


Artesia High senior quarterback Heder Gladden sneaks across the goal line for his lone rushing touchdown in last Saturday night’s CIF-Southern Section Division 12 championship game. Gladden rushed 24 times for 128 yards and also threw two touchdown passes, but the Pioneers lost 70-32 in the program’s first trip to a divisional championship game. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer


After that, it was all Linfield Christian, which took the lead for good on a Jameison 14-yard run five plays after the Artesia score. The first of four touchdowns from Wong, a 13-yard run with 64 seconds left in the opening quarter, increased the score to 21-13.

The closest Artesia would get came almost four minutes into the second quarter when Davis matriculated 72 yards for the first of his two touchdowns. But again, the Lions responded with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Kaleb Maresh to Colin Maher. In fact, Linfield Christian scored on its first five drives and only punted twice in the game.

“He’s pretty physical,” Olmstead said of Jameison said. “We just really haven’t seen that many guys that have been that physical running the ball. They had a good game plan; they tried to pound the ball at us and we just had trouble stopping it. We’ve had trouble with that all year, so that’s going to be a point of emphasis in the offseason of what we can do differently to kind of stop the run stuff.”

Artesia trailed 36-20 at the half, just the fourth time this season it had trailed after the first two quarters, but only once had the Pioneers rallied to win. And when Gladden went in from a yard out with 9:21 remaining in the third quarter, Artesia was trailing by 10 points. But the dagger in the heart came when the Lions parlayed a 15-play, 79-yard drive that took almost seven minutes off the clock. The drive ended with a three-yard run from Jameison. In the drive, he gained 24 yards on four carries while Wong rushed five times for 27 yards. Lindfield Christian converted on third down three times and fourth down once.

“We have to get stops and we didn’t get any stops,” Olmstead said. “They have a lot of guys. They have a couple of running backs that are pretty good and we just ran out of depth. That’s really what it is. I thought our offensive line played well enough to win. Defensively, obviously we didn’t play great. But Travys and Heder did about what I thought they would. They tried to make plays on every single snap and that’s about it.”

“We just talked about being physical,” said Linfield Christian head coach DeChon Burns of the third quarter. “Our big push is let’s be physical. We want to punish the opponent on both sides of the ball and it wears them down. The ability to drive the ball 80 yards was huge for us.”

The Lions would score on all four of their fourth quarter possessions while Davis capped off Artesia’s scoring with a four-yard run early in the fourth and finished with 217 yards. For the season, Gladden ran for 2,454 yards and scored 34 times on the ground. He also added another 1,150 yards through the air with 14 touchdowns. Davis concluded the season with 2,217 yards and 29 touchdowns. Those two accounted for 92 percent of Artesia’s rushing attack and all but five touchdowns the Pioneers would score and replacing the best rushing tandem in school history won’t be easy.

“Well, you don’t,” Olmstead said.  “Those two kids are special. Replacing them, no. But getting somebody that can run the offense and carry the ball like them…it’s going to be hard to do. We’re going to get on the writing board in the next couple weeks and see what we can do moving forward.”

“If you don’t do your research, you don’t recognize that they are the two…we had three of the top four division leaders in rushing,” Burns said “They were one and two and Kendric was number four. So, we knew they were explosive. It was just a matter of doing what we were supposed to do. Those guys are dynamic football players and they have an arsenal of moves. And if you give them a crease, they’ll take advantage of it.”

In 23 playoff games in the program’s history prior to this season, Artesia had won five times and never more than one in any season. Those playoff wins came in 1977, 1985, 1986, 1991 and 1994. The 10 victories are the most for any Artesia team since going 8-3 in 2005.

“I think we proved that we can win in the playoffs, and we can do it,” Olmstead said. “Getting in was huge just to see where we’re at. Our schedule was hopefully in preparation of playing teams that are around our same division. Hopefully this is a stepping stone in the right direction for the program.

“It’s special; CIF does a great job running that banquet,” Olmstead later said of the entire week leading up to the game. “We were out of school, so we really didn’t have anything. We had a rooter bus come tonight that brought about 45 kids. So, the school has rallied around [this week] and I think that’s kind of what I’ve always envisioned. I came from a school where football kind of set the tone for all the sports for the rest of the season. And I think we’ve done that. We accomplished our goal; we fell short of one of our goals, which was a CIF title. But hopefully everybody respects the program now and can see that we can do it, and any other sport can do it as well. Now they just have to go do it.”