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WEEK SIX FOOTBALL : Norwalk dominates flow of game, but Glenn pulls out win with defense, two long touchdowns

John Glenn High head coach Vince Lobendahn (far left) celebrates with his team following a 20-7 victory against Norwalk High last Friday in the annual Mayor’s Cup football game. The Eagles defeated the Lancers for the second straight season. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer 

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

The long-standing rivalry between the John Glenn High and Norwalk High football teams took on a different approach leading up to its 56thall-time game last Friday night at Excelsior Stadium. Rumors of harsh words towards the Glenn program were prevalent throughout the city during the week, mostly because the Eagles slammed the Lancers 48-7 in last season’s affair, and several Norwalk players transferred to the rival school in the offseason.

It went as far as accusations being thrown in Glenn’s face of illegal recruiting in which the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District ruled there was no evidence of undue influence. Even with the distractions, Glenn’s defense buckled down and found a way to stop Norwalk’s double-wing offense when it needed to and pull out a hard-earned 20-7 win. 

It’s the first time Glenn has defeated Norwalk in back to back years since winning four in a row from 1999-2002. The 14 points the Lancers have scored the past two games against the Eagles are the fewest since scoring 18 points combined in the 1970 and 1971 contests. Glenn has also held Norwalk to single digits 10 times.  

“I don’t think we’re in hatred,” said Glenn head coach Vince Lobendahn. “My wife works at that school, I don’t. I’m coaching football and I’m trying to put a fingerprint on John Glenn to make them a program that’s like the other schools. I’ve watched Norwalk go to the CIF title game, I’ve watched La Mirada win a state championship. 

“And I’m just trying to get Glenn…no hatred to neither school,” he continued. “I’m just trying to get Glenn to that area where we have guys that want to come to us and play for us because we’re going to put them in a position to play beyond high school. It’s not me hating Norwalk or La Mirada or any of the other schools around here. I’m just trying to put a fingerprint on this program and change what they’ve had here for many years.”

John Glenn High senior wide receiver Robert Coates is off and running after catching one of his two receptions in lady Friday night’s game against Norwalk High. Coates had receptions of 33 and 10 yards in the second quarter of Glenn’s 20-7 victory. It was the school’s second straight win over its city rivals. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer 

Norwalk clearly dominated the game in every area except the final score as the Lancers held the ball for 35:43, ran 36 more plays than Glenn and piled up 275 yards of offense, about 75 yards more than the Eagles did. 

But the Eagles would get key defensive stops when they needed to, halting Norwalk drives at Glenn’s 27 and 37-yard lines in the first quarter, Glenn’s 32 and one-yard lines in the second quarter, Glenn’s 30-yard line in the third quarter and Glenn’s 14-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Later in the stanza, a pair of turnovers sealed the win.

The game was scoreless until Glenn senior running back Edwin Udengwu scored from four yards out on the fifth play of the second quarter. Glenn went for the two-point conversion and was unsuccessful but was starting to gain some momentum. 

“When you put us in a phone booth, we have to play phone booth football,” Lobendahn said. “And in phone booth football, we finally get some guys on the field that weren’t there [previously]. They were able to lay some different type of work out there that we haven’t had. It was nice to see them.”

Lobendahn was talking about the players who transferred to Glenn and became eligible after sitting out the first six games. Glenn would only have three plays the rest of the second quarter, but the story of the night was the defense. The Lancers had a pair of second quarter drives, ran 18 plays and were denied a touchdown when senior running back Sergio Martinez was stopped a yard short of the endzone on the last play of the half.

With Glenn’s running game nearly stagnant in the first half, rushing four times for 22 yards, all by Udengwu, the passing game got involved. After the Eagles went three and out on the opening drive of the second half, junior quarterback Matthew Huxtable, who completed three passes for 45 yards in the first half, found senor tight end Francisco Ruiz for a pair of long touchdowns.

The first one came with 5:25 left in the third quarter when Ruiz found himself wide open in the middle of the secondary and raced 41 yards for the score. Then with 4:28 remining in the game, it was nearly a carbon copy as this one went for 40 yards.

“I’m always going to be a tight end-loving coach,” Lobendahn said. “It’s always going to be a Norm Chow puppy. We’re always going to keep the Y involved in the offense; it gets lost in the run and all the blocking. So, whenever we can, we keep an eye on the inside out and when it’s there, it will hit. They overplayed the outside and we made sure we went right back to the middle.”

“Both pass plays, there wasn’t a safety over him; he was wide open” Huxtable said. “There was no safety at all. It was just an easy catch.”

Norwalk would continue to drive down the field all night despite going two for six on fourth down conversions through the first three quarters with the two conversions coming off Glenn penalties. The Lancers began the final stanza deep in Glenn’s territory, but senior Daniel Onopa was incomplete on a fourth down pass roiling out to his left. When the hosts got the ball back, they needed to go 23 yards to avoid being blanked for the fourth time in the rivalry. Martinez cashed in from a yard out nearly midway through the quarter. After that, Norwalk fumbled the next time it touched the ball, then ran five plays on the last possession of the game before Onopa was picked off by senior defensive back Davion Keith in the endzone with 59.5 seconds left.

“All of a sudden, we gathered a few players that weren’t injured in those other games, nor were they sitting out,” Lobendahn said of containing the double-wing offense. “So, they were able to help us out on the field versus being on the sideline. And, they contributed to the group and gave us a group effort.”

“It’s really a great feeling with this rivalry that’s been going on,” Huxtable said. “For the past years, they’ve been beating us every year. The game means a lot to me. This is like bragging rights for the rest of the year. Until next year, they can’t say anything about us because we beat them.”

Huxtable competed six passes in 15 attempts for 131 yards while Udengwu, a 1,000-yard running back last season, was limited to 35 yards on half a dozen touches. Senior running back Robert Coates added 28 yards on five carries. For Norwalk, Martinez rushed 31 times for 126 yards and junior running back Milton Roman Jr. added 106 yards on 19 carries. But again, the story was the defense where sophomore lineman Enzo Tayou, a transfer playing in his first game, had nine tackles. Udengwu added five tackles and senior defensive back Ulices Ayala four tackles.

“One of those kids was sitting out for six games and Enzo was one of them,” Lobendahn said. “So, his effort was going to be above and beyond your regular ‘get in and get out there’. He went out there and gave 100 percent, knowing that the plays were setting up in an area where he could make an impact. It wasn’t going to be away from him too far where it was within an arm reach or a leg reach. He was doing his best to stay within that general vicinity to try to make a play there.”

Both teams will be off tonight before starting their respective league slates. Glenn, which had scored a combined 30 points in the last three games, all losses, improved to 3-4 and will host Pioneer High on Oct. 18 in the first 605 League contest this season. Norwalk dropped to 3-4 and will host Bellflower High on Oct. 18 in the Suburban League opener.

“There were portions of last week’s game where I felt that group should have been able to close and give us one [win] last week,” Lobendahn said. “In this game, there were areas we were still…when we get new guys, it does show up on the field. I’m hoping that we can get those kinks out in this week ahead before we play our first league game at home against Pioneer.”