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2019 FOOTBALL PREVIEW : John Glenn building off success of 2018, aims for league title in 2019

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

JOHN GLENN EAGLES

6-5 overall last season, 2-1 in the 605 League, second place, lost to Nogales High 24-21 in the Division 12 first round playoffs

15-36 overall last five seasons

Head coach: Vince Lobendahn (sixth season, 15-36)

Lost 16 seniors out of 42 players from 2018 roster

Last time missed the playoffs: 2017

2019 schedule

Aug. 23           Savanna (9-3 overall last season)

Aug. 30           El Monte (11-2) 

Sept. 6            Long Beach Cabrillo (2-8)

Sept. 13          @ Bell Gardens (7-5) 

Sept. 20          @ Western (12-2)

Sept. 27          Hawthorne (5-6) 

Oct. 4              @ Norwalk (0-10)

Oct. 11            BYE

Oct. 18            Pioneer (6-4)

Oct. 25            @ Artesia (10-4)

Nov. 1             @ Cerritos (3-7)

The John Glenn High football program had a season to remember in 2018, finishing the regular season with a winning mark for the first time in over two decades and advancing to the CIF-Southern Section playoffs for the first time since 2002. The turnaround can be traced back to 2016, the third season for head coach Vince Lobendahn, which followed a disappointing 0-10 season.

“First, it was a group that we put a lot of pressure on, if I might add,” Lobendahn said of last season. “They came in as freshmen and I could see a group of them being together for a while and in the end, get them to be together and commit to a four-year plan. [Quarterback] David [Sanchez] ends up starting as a sophomore and he ends up bringing us, pretty much, out of a 2-8 season his sophomore season to a 5-5 season to a 6-5 season where we entered the playoffs. That whole group with David stayed together where my center and my guard had been together for three years straight.”

The 11 wins in last two seasons are more for the program than the combined total from 2010-2016. And, if it wasn’t for a phantom penalty which negated a late touchdown in the Division 12 playoffs against Nogales High, not to mention some tinkering with the down markers and the clock, the Eagles would have moved on to the quarterfinals. Still, it was a season to remember and Glenn is poised to be even better this season.

“I’ve been here for 20 years and to hear and listen to the community finally get some of those 11-win feelings versus what you had previous to that…it’s been nice to hear the community heal a little bit with something to cheer behind,” Lobendahn said. “It’s really nice to look out there and look at the parents and know that they’re coming to something they get to leave with a smile on their face.”

OFFENSE

Trying to replace Sanchez, who threw for 1,655 yards, 16 touchdowns and five interceptions, will be tough. But senior quarterback Bobby Sanchez will get the call for 2019 with junior Matthew Huxtable as the backup. Bobby Sanchez was versatile last season, catching 17 passes for 222 yards and hauling in a touchdown while also gaining 65 yards on seven carries.

Lobendahn says Huxtable is ready to pick up the reigns a little bit from Bobby but there is still, within this camp, going to be a decision. The coaching staff will take a look at both of them.

Glenn was primarily a running team last season and that will not change for this season. The ground game clearly begins with senior Edwin Udengwu, who picked up 1,964 yards a season ago and found the endzone 26 times. Lobendahn says the run game, which is going to be the basis of John Glenn football, is going to help with clock management. Udengwu.is the premier running back in the 605 League and one of the top running backs in the CIF-Southern Section. He is also nicknamed the 2K guy by those in the program since that would-be touchdown in the Nogales game would have put him over 2,000 yards.

“He really leans leadership,” Lobendahn said. “And there have been a few transfers that have shown up and one of them is another back. So, it provides us to have another guy in the backfield while Edwin plays other positions and shows us his other skills.

If Udengwu wasn’t good enough, the Eagles bolstered their backfield with the arrival of junior Warren Stevens-Tayou, a transfer from Norwalk High. Senior Robert Coates, a transfer from Long Beach Jordan, will also spend a little time in the backfield. 

Seniors Charlee Gonzalez and Davion Keith, who was converted from defense to offense, will be the leading targets for either Huxtable or Bobby Sanchez. Senior Tyrelle Watson, who was with the program last season but was cleared to play in time for the playoff game, is another receiver as well as Sanchez if Huxtable is under center.

The offensive line personnel will be rotating a lot this season because of the additions of a few newcomers. Senior Ryan Baker, a transfer from Cerritos High and sophomore Martell Watts will vie for the left tackle position. Watson will begin the season there while Baker sits out the first five games due to the transfer rule. At left guard will be junior Calvin Johnson while sophomore Gabriel Pasillas will hold down the center for the first half of the season. Once Baker becomes eligible, he will go to left tackle with Watts going to left guard and Johnson moves to center. The right side will be occupied by senior guard Troy Stanford and junior tackle Joe Varos.

“There are some spots on the line that have to earn their sense of what we had,” Lobendahn said. “We had a front last year that we knew what we were going to do. We don’t know yet [about this year]. They are heavier. Calvin and Troy, Joe and Martell come in at some good weight. But at out center position, we had a CIF center. We don’t have a CIF center until maybe game six.

“In these first five games, we’re going to have to take some lumps in that group,” he continued. “But their big enough to handle what we’re doing. Our backs will make them right this year.”

DEFENSE

The defense was hit and miss last season, allowing less than 30 points five times, but yielding over 40 points five times. Sophomore Enzo Stevens-Tayou, another transfer from Norwalk will be on the inside of the defensive line while junior Anthony Lira and sophomore Thomas Johnson, who will miss half the season, will be the main guys on the line. The top two linebackers will be seniors Santiago Chambers and Christopher Roca with the rest of that position still up in the air. The secondary figures to be solid with senior Ulices Ayala, Tyrese Watson, Keith, Sanchez and junior Cesar Avila.

The Eagles graduated the bulk of their defensive playmakers but Roca (85 tackles last season), Ayala (63 tackles, two interceptions) and Keith (53 tackles, six interceptions) are the top three returning defenders.

“When you lose Allen Parrish, Alvia Christianson, Jorge Ruiz…that was the meat of the real run- stoppers,” Lobendahn said. “They were the brains of the front. If you just took the inside runs alone, I think they were negative most of the time. Western couldn’t run on them inside. They really have something that I don’t think we’ll be able to replace with the run-stopping ability of that group.

“I see us giving up a little bit more yards,” he adds. “But athletically, though, we get to the ball a little better than we had previously. So, I think that, speed to the ball, more guys to the pursuit of a tackle will be the benefit we could get out of the group first.”

SCHEDULE

If Glenn is to win the 605 League title this season and/or make a deeper run in the playoffs, it will have to earn every yard and every point. While the Eagles drop Eisenhower High, whom they lost to 60-22 before claiming the Division 11 crown. El Monte High is the non-league game that will be circled on the calendar. The Lions are coached by former Norwalk mentor Jesse Ceniceros, who will bring his double-wing offense into town. Savanna High will hope to spoil the debut of Glenn’s new on-campus stadium by avenging a narrow one-point loss last season. The last two games heading into the city rivalry game will be crucial and will say a lot about the team.

“We had two division champions there [and] we replace that with one that could have pretty much won theirs too,” Lobendahn said. “They have two turnovers in the game that gave [El Monte] their loss. They had a shot. We were trying to get to where we have games that matter to help us get in a position to where when we get in a playoff position, those lend to a nice, easier window. Those seven are a test of where we can be. Are we going to come out of there 5-2, 6-1? What are we going to do in that to see where go?”

The league slate figures to be a bit tougher as the Eagles beat Pioneer last season 28-26 but trailed 12-3 after the first quarter and 19-9 at the half. Then, Glenn has to go on the road against Artesia High, the defending league champions and an up and coming Cerritos High team that may not be as bad as its overall record shows.

“I feel I’m going to get a lot out of game one because I don’t think Pioneer is not going to come in here swinging,” Lobendahn said. “We surely didn’t walk into [last year’s] game expecting us to be down as long as we were down. There were moments in that game I was fairly unhappy with some stuff.”

HOMECOMING

Because the Eagles begin the season with three straight home games, they will be home just twice in the final eight weeks. Not too many options were available, so, Hawthorne High will be Glenn’s homecoming game. Glenn has not faced Hawthorne in at least 22 seasons and on homecoming night, the Eagles haven’t fared too well, losing six of their last seven on this event. Last season, Glenn fell to Artesia 42-28 in a game that had to be finished the following Monday because of inclement weather.

DIVISION 12   

For the second straight season, Glenn is situated in Division 12 where a third of the teams will move on to the playoffs. The game with Artesia, another division team, will be critical for both as both teams are favored to challenge for a league championship as well as playoff positioning. The winner of this game figures to have a better matchup for an 11thgame. Hawthorne, Norwalk and Savanna are also in the division and if the Eagles can pick up wins in those three games, plus the Artesia contest, then the Eagles have a strong shot at a second straight postseason appearance.

“I’ve been happy to be in Division 12 this year based on the year before,” Lobendahn said. “Meaning, we were in 13 and there are 900 teams in there and you don’t know how if you can even make it. There are so many [second place teams] that if you were a two in Division 13, sometimes you were outed. So, in the end, I’m thankful that we’re in 12 where we’re limited on who they get to choose from.”

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