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2019 FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Artesia looking for a new identity following magical 2018 season

By Loren Kopff

LorenKopff on Twitter


10-4 overall last season, 3-0 in the 605 League, league champions, lost to Linfield Christian High 70-32 in the Division 12 championship game

27-27 overall last five seasons

Head coach: Don Olmstead (third season, 14-10)

Lost 13 seniors out of 42 players from 2018 roster 

Last time missed the playoffs: 2017

2019 schedule

Aug. 23           Bassett (4-6 overall last season)

Aug. 30           Kennedy (3-7)

Sept. 6            @ Chino (3-7)

Sept. 13          @ Westminster (0-10)

Sept. 20          BYE

Sept. 27          @ El Dorado (3-7)

Oct. 4              Segerstrom (8-3)

Oct. 10            @ Western (12-2)

Oct. 18            Cerritos (3-7)

Oct. 25            John Glenn (6-5)

Nov. 1             @ Pioneer (6-4)

It was only a matter of time before the Artesia High football team advanced all the way to the school’s first divisional championship game. And while the Pioneers were overmatched by Linfield Christian High in the CIF-Southern Section Division 12 title game, the team managed to put together the program’s best record in over two decades. Now that the honeymoon is over, head coach Don Olmstead and his staff must regroup and find a way to have another successful season despite losing 94 percent of its rushing attack they got from Travys Davis and Heder Gladden, both of whom graduated.

“I reflected a lot when we were coming home [from the Linfield Christian game], and I think last year was a tight-knit group with a couple of really good athletes that played probably about what we expected that they would have to perform if we wanted to be good,” Olmstead said. “I think we got that out of them. I think our O-line progressed probably more than any offensive line I’ve seen in years here.”

Olmstead said the team will be more spread out this year instead of two guys carrying the bulk of the weight and will start seven or eight sophomores, not by need, but because they are the best in the program.


How good were the 605 League champions last season? The Pioneers scored over 40 points 10 times, winning every time, and eclipsed the 50-point plateau five times. According to the third-year head coach, the biggest improvement came from the offensive line as four of the five players up front had never started a game and the other one had started on defense, and all five played all 14 games.

“We knew if the offensive line was good, then we would be good,” Olmstead said. “If somebody could block for Heder and Travys, we were going to be really good, and that’s what happened. Then the receivers bought into it. So, I think it was a big step just to prove to the kids that you can do it.”

On the line will be junior Andrew Sanders at left tackle, whom Olmstead says has made the biggest jump during the offseason, sophomore John Roberts at left guard, junior Raul Bello at right guard and senior Jonathon Manzo at right tackle. The center position is being contested by junior Johnny Jara and sophomores Ivan Lopez and Connor Whaley with the latter getting the first opportunity to win the spot. 

Those five will have the task of protecting junior Devin Yoakum, the new quarterback who played wide receiver last season. The coaches put him at that position a little last season at the frosh/soph level just to see what he looked like. Olmstead says if 6’ 3” sophomore K’Len Williams, who played at the freshman level, can play quarterback, then the Pioneers can open their offense and move Yoakum to one of the receiver spots. Senior Tyler Kemp will also be in the mix at quarterback.

There will be a different look at the running back position with senior Laquan Ware-Morales, juniors Kyeyou Lenoir and Corey McKinley and sophomore Tyler Miller in the mix. In two games last season, Miller picked up 36 yards on seven carries.

Seniors Anthony Soto and Jakeem Steger will work out of the slot and possibly senior Garret Ross, who spent some time at defensive end last season. Also, junior Drayven Young could be a wide receiver. 

 “Overall, we’re deeper this year,” Olmstead said. “Last year’s offensive line, I felt we had five guys and if somebody went down, we were going to be in trouble. This year, I feel like we probably have two groups that can play. Now, the second group is all sophomores, but they’re good kids.”

Olmstead feels they need to be more creative and adds that they will have to do more things different that will put the kids in situations to succeed. Besides figuring out who will be taking the snaps, he says he’s not concerned about the rest of his offense. But again, it’s tough to replace Davis, who gained 2,288 yards last season on the ground, and Gladden, who tacked on another 2,478 yards as well as 1,150 yards through the air.

“Everything else, I’m not really that worried about,” he said. “I don’t think we skip a beat. With our offensive line better, I think it will take up some of the slack of not having Heder or Travys.”


It seemed as if whenever the Pioneers stepped on the gridiron, a video game was going to be played. Yes, the offense averaged close to 43 points a game. But the defense allowed over 35 points a game. In fact, not including the six points it yielded to Laguna Beach High in the semifinals of the playoffs, Artesia’s lowest point total on defense was 24 points.

Bello, Manzo and Roberts figure to be the main three on the defensive line. The secondary will be a revolving door consisting of cornerbacks Ross, Williams and Yoakum. At safety will be sophomores Nick McDonald and Denis Palacios while Lenoir will see time at free safety. Senior Malek Kangas and junior Douglas Ixco return at middle linebacker while junior Andrew Cecil, McKinley, and Ware-Morales will be in the mix to occupy the outside. 

Kangas leads all returning players with 63 tackles while Ixco had 30 and Ware-Morales another 28. Olmstead said Ross could play one of the linebacker spots, but unsure if it will be inside or outside.

“It’s definitely a mixture of…I think that’s how it is on offense though, too,” Olmstead said. “Last year we had a young O-line and experienced skill guys. Now it’s the opposite. It’s kind of the same on defense. Last year we were experienced in the secondary with corners and safeties, but our linebackers and D-line were young.”


The Pioneers didn’t shy away from anyone last season, putting eventual Division 11 champion Western High on its schedule. The ‘other’ Pioneers wound up 12-2 last season after going 4-6 the previous season. Artesia will face four teams who had losing campaigns, before its bye and will not play a home game in the month of September. 

Olmstead said he wanted to begin the season with a game his team should be able to win first not knowing the inexperience of his team. He called the 40-29 opening-season loss to Kennedy High last season a ‘blessing in disguise’ because his experienced players came in ‘thinking they were best thing since sliced bread, and then they got shell-shocked’. The meat of the schedule will come as October arrives with tough encounters against Segerstrom High and Western.

“We try to put two games in that spot that will get us ready for league,” Olmstead said. “Last year, we rested [Heder and Travys] in those games, but I think it made other guys pick up the slack. When we got to league…the best three games we played all year were those three league games up until the playoffs, obviously.

“I think [the three league games] will be similar to last year,” he continued. “I think Glenn and us are probably a little bit ahead of the other two teams. But the gap is year to year…nobody is going to sustain the amount of athletes like a Mayfair or like a La Mirada. I don’t think anybody in our league is going to do that.”

Artesia beat up on Westminster 51-24 in the third game of last season and two weeks later, knocked off El Dorado High 46-26. Bassett High and Chino High are new foes for Artesia. 


From 2007 to this year, Artesia has hosted Cerritos High for its homecoming game every odd-numbered year except 2011. The Pioneers have defeated the Dons eight straight times and hold a 14-7 mark against their ABC Unified School District rivals since 1998, including a 7-3 record at Artesia. Last season, the Pioneers raced to a 21-0 lead by the time the first quarter had concluded and cruised to a 56-26 victory. Two seasons ago, Artesia posted a school-record 87 points against the Dons in a 45-point win.


Based on the modules and power point statistics put together by the CIF-Southern Section, the Pioneers are within a stone’s throw of moving up to Division 11. Another league title, strong record and deep run in the playoffs this season will potentially do that. But, for this season, Artesia is one of 46 schools in the division. 

“It doesn’t really matter to me, to be honest,” Olmstead said. “It’s kind of out of our control. If we get in [the playoffs], we’re going to face somebody we have to beat anyways. I know Linfield is out, which obviously they should be. But everybody I looked at is all kind of in the same boat. Overall, I think the division is pretty equal.”

Kennedy and John Glenn High are the only two opponents in the same division and while Linfield Christian moved up to Division 11, last season’s Division 13 champion, Adelanto High, is now in Division 12.