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WEEK EIGHT FOOTBALL: Lenoir lifts Artesia to 605 League-opening victory, sends Cerritos to sixth straight loss

Artesia High junior running back Kyeyou Lenoir escapes the grasp of Cerritos High junior safety Andrew Ramos as he scores one of his three touchdowns in last Friday’s 605 League opener. Lenoir gained 189 yards on 13 carries as Artesia posted a 47-21 victory. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS,  Contributing photographer 

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter 

It hasn’t been the season that Artesia High head coach Don Olmstead was looking for, despite losing its two biggest offensive playmakers from 2018. But as every coach from every sport will tell you, it’s all about league play. 

Seven non-league games are in the books and as the defending 605 League champions prepared to host Cerritos High last Friday night at Atkins Stadium, Olmstead had little to say to his team about what lies ahead the final three weeks of the regular season.  

“I don’t say a lot to them before the game because I feel if I talk a lot, they overanalyze stuff,” Olmstead said. “And I just wanted them to play. But that was the main [thing]. We are the defending league champions. Everybody is 0-0 now. Our 2-5 record coming into league means nothing.” 

Almost four minutes into the second quarter, Artesia junior running back Kyeyou Lenoir scored from 14 yards out to give the Pioneers the lead for good in a 47-21 victory. Lenoir, who found the endzone towards the end of the first quarter, scored his third and final touchdown with 4:38 remaining in the first half. 

Artesia got the scoring going with 8:02 left in the first quarter as senior quarterback Tyler Kemp went in from a yard out. But the Dons, who also had a 2-5 mark entering the contest, responded to tie the game almost three minutes later. Senior wide receiver David Huh hauled in a 21 pass from senior quarterback Nick Lightell, ending an eight-play drive that was aided by a pair of pass interference calls on the hosts. 

Lenoir put the Pioneers back in front with an 80-yard run three plays into the ensuing drive before Lightell found junior Moises Vargas for a 49-yard connection early into the second quarter, tying the contest. But Lenoir ended a drive in which he touched the ball four straight times for 55 yards. From that point on, it would be all Artesia. 

“That’s great, if you can sustain it,” said Cerritos head coach Barry Thomas of the early portion of the game. “We need to be able to do that.” 

Lenoir picked up 161 yards on seven carries in the first half with the three scores and added another 28 yards on half a dozen carries in the second half. 

“Kyeyou’s good,” Olmstead said. “He’s athletic; he’s a really good football player. He didn’t play last year, so we’re catching him up to speed. That’s why we’re kind of giving him one side of the ball, to learn it, and now we’re starting to sprinkle him on offense. But he’s exciting to watch and next week, [sophomore] Tyler [Miller] should be back. So now, it might give us a little bit better dynamic on offense.” 

While Cerritos punted on three straight second quarter drives after tying the game, the Pioneers continued to add to their lead. After Lenoir’s go-ahead touchdown, he scored on a seven-yard run with 4:38 remaining in the half and when they got the ball back, Kemp scored from 12 yards out as Artesia was up 34-13 at the break. 

“We kind of changed some things up, then we stopped executing,” Thomas said. “Knowing what to do and doing it are two different things. We need to stay within it mentally. Physically, I think we’re fine, but I think mentally…we stop doing what we’re supposed to do mentally. That was the issue.” 

Artesia punted on its first possession of the second half and the Dons were held on downs before Kemp threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Kelly Thornton late in the third quarter. It ended a 10-play, 31-yard drive that took almost four minutes, the longest drive by the Pioneers. 

The fourth quarter began with backup quarterback, sophomore K’Len Williams, scoring on a 14-yard run three minutes into the final stanza. Then, the Dons ended the game’s scoring when sophomore quarterback David Sagun, also a backup, scored on a one-yard sneak with 2:47 remaining in the game. 

Besides Lenoir and Kemp, who completed five of 10 passes for 67 yards and added another 37 yards on 10 carries, junior running back Corey McKinley picked up 72 yards on 11 rushes as the Pioneers churned up 348 yards on the ground. Add Miller, who has been out for a few games, and Artesia seems to be primed for the remainder of the season as well as the future. 

“Those are four guys who didn’t play a lot last year,” Olmstead said. “Corey played a little bit after the 10-week mark because he was ineligible. He’s a changed kid. And Kyeyou didn’t play at all and Tyler [Kemp] didn’t play at all. So, you have three kids who had never played football, really, and they’re three key spots.” 

Defensively, senior cornerback Jakeem Steger led the Pioneers with five tackles while Thornton and junior outside linebacker Andrew Cecil each had four tackles. The 21 points were the fewest Artesia had allowed since falling 8-0 to El Dorado High on Sept. 27 and represent the third fewest yielded this season. 

For Cerritos, Lightell completed 12 of 26 for 171 yards with Huh catching five passes for 82 yards and Vargas another four for 51 yards. The ground game was nearly non-existent as Cerritos picked up 98 yards on 28 carries. However, 83 of those came late in the third quarter and into the fourth.  

“I feel like Nick’s a warrior,” Thomas said. “He’s doing what he needed to do, but unless all the other guys are executing, it doesn’t matter. He can’t shoulder everything and do everything by himself. But, if everybody is pulling in the right direction, we have success.” 

Senior Sam Agregado led the Dons with five tackles while junior safeties Joseph Quibrantar and Pablo Vega and Sagun all added four tackles. Cerritos has now given up at least 40 points in four straight games. 

Cerritos, which wraps up its road portion of the schedule at Pioneer High tonight, while the Pioneers stay home to welcome John Glenn High in a meeting of the two league playoff representatives last season. 

“Every game is for the league title,” Olmstead said. “We have three of them. If you win two, you’re in [the playoffs]. If you win three, you’re league champs. The kids know that; we preach that all the time, and if you can’t get up for a league game, just quit football. This is what you’ve been practicing for since spring. This is what you’ve worked all summer for. This is why we condition, so you play both ways when we get to weeks eight, nine and 10.” 

“We’re not going to be league champs, but we can be co-league champs,” Thomas told his team following the loss. “Every day you wake up and draw a breath, there’s a positive. Week in and week out, if we do what we’re supposed to do and execute, everybody pulls in the right direction, we’re pretty freaking good. But when it doesn’t happen, you see what happens.”