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WEEK NINE FOOTBALL : John Glenn overwhelms Artesia to clinch share of 605 League title

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

When John Glenn High hosted Artesia High in the first 605 League game last Oct. 12, the contest was halted with 8:09 remining in the first half due to lightning and had to be resumed three nights later. Artesia would prevail 42-28 and went on to win the league while the Eagles finished in second place.

Lightning would not strike twice for Glenn when the teams hooked up last Friday night at Atkins Stadium as the Eagles got strong performances from junior quarterback Matthew Huxtable, senior running back Edwin Udengwu and senior wide receiver Robert Coates and defeated the Pioneers 47-28. The win gave Glenn (5-4 overall, 2-0 in league) at least a share of the league crown, the first for the program since 1989. It was also the third straight victory for the Eagles, who have scored 97 points during that stretch.

“When I took the program over six years ago, we started to try and look up records and areas that we could improve the program to build behind,” said Glenn head coach Vince Lobendahn. “One of the things we took was the ‘G’. The ‘G’ was a CIF team that made it in 1965. We took the wings off and put the ‘G’ on our helmet because the team that went to the CIF championship game had a ‘G’ on their helmet. 

“We’re trying to breed a new look, and that kind of started where we are today, where we wanted to build off the little things that would lead to something we can add for each year,” he continued. “Now, we’re at a point where we can get an outright title out of the league and put ourselves in for a home game, which is what our goal was.as we came out of some of the rough patches early on in the year.”

“It doesn’t carry over year to year because you have different guys,” said Artesia head coach Don Olmstead. “It’s always new. They have the guys year and they played well. We didn’t play well at all. We didn’t win on special teams; we didn’t win on offense and we didn’t win on defense.”

The lone score in the first quarter came on Glenn’s opening drive, which went 14 plays and lasted nearly six minutes. It ended when Coates caught a 33-yard pass from Huxtable. Coates would also add a two-point conversion run for an 8-0 lead. Then nearly four minutes into the second quarter, the visitors went up 16-0 after junior halfback Warren Stevens-Tayou scored from two yards out and Huxtable found senior tight end Francisco Ruiz for the extra two points.

The Pioneers (3-6, 1-1) got their scoring going late in the second quarter when senior defensive end Kelly Thornton picked off Huxtable and returned it 35 yards the other way. But Glenn senior Davion Keith returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, then junior Anthony Lira recovered the upcoming onside kick, which led to a 43-yard touchdown pass from Huxtable to senior wide receiver Bobby Sanchez. Just like that, it was 28-7 with 2:57 left in the half and the Pioneers would not recover.

“We were going to do that because they have threats back there,” Lobendahn said of the onside kick. “We’re not going to put their threats in the open field where we wouldn’t have a chance. I don’t want special teams to become an area where I’m giving up points.”

Sophomore running back Tyler Miller scored the first of his three touchdowns, a five-yard run, with less than a minute remaining in the half to make it 28-14. But Coates extended the leads as he added an eight-yard run six plays into the second half. After both teams traded punts, Miller tried to get Artesia back in the game. First, he scored from seven yards out and with 2:13 left in the third quarter. Then on the third play of the fourth quarter, his four-yard run cut the deficit to 34-28.

“We just couldn’t get him loose and up front, our offensive line did not play well,” Olmstead said of Miller. “I told them at the half if they didn’t play any better in the second half, you’re not going to win games in league without a good offensive line.”

But Huxtable tossed a pair of touchdowns in a span of 5:22, first a 19-yard pass to Ruiz, then a 53-yard connection to Sanchez to close out the scoring. Huxtable ended the night completing 13 of 19 passes (seven in a row to end the game) for 293 yards. 

“There was that situation last week where we’re looking for Matt…he really hasn’t had it on his shoulders and we’re looking for that out of him tonight,” Lobendahn said. “There were areas where the snap was bad, so, he fought through those things and started to show us the character that we think he needs to have to be a leader. It started to show tonight.”

“We battled back a little bit, but we just couldn’t sustain it,” Olmstead said. “We didn’t play well enough. We didn’t tackle well; we didn’t play well up front. So, when you have those opportunities, you have to cash them in, and we didn’t.”

Udengwu led the ground assault with 139 yards on 16 carries while Coates added 32 yards on 11 rushes and caught five passes for 108 yards. On defense, sophomore outside linebacker Thomas Johnson had 14 tackles. However, the Eagles showed their sloppy side, being penalized 21 times for 169 yards.

“In any game, going back to the Pioneer game (the previous week), situations put us in a tight window when we didn’t need it then,” Lobendahn said. “And in this game, as it plays out, you’re thinking, ‘extend the lead, hold it, eat clock’. A game exists for 60 minutes and in those 60 minutes, things are a plus and things are a minus. We’re trying to work our way more to the plusses and stay away from so many minuses.”

Artesia struggled all night long, both offensively and defensively. Miller picked up 40 yards on 19 carries while senior quarterback Tyler Kemp completed just four passes and was intercepted three times. He also gained 21 yards on seven carries while his backup, sophomore K’Len Williams, added another 32 yards on five carries.

“We know every week that on defense, we have to make some plays, and we didn’t make them tonight,” Olmstead said. “I don’t think that team is 20 points better than us, but they were tonight. And that’s all that really matters. But yeah, we couldn’t capitalize. We had the ball down at their end twice and we couldn’t punch it in. That’s the way the game goes.”

While the only thing that has been clinched is Glenn doing no worse than a tie for first place and going back to the playoffs for a second straight season, a lot more will be worked out tonight as the regular season ends. Glenn will face last place Cerritos High, a team it has beaten three straight seasons. The Dons will be sporting a 2-7 mark and have lost seven straight games. Artesia will travel to Pioneer High with both teams sitting at 1-1 in league play. The winner will claim the other automatic playoff berth from the league.

“As I’ve looked out in front of me, I’ve seen a much better league,” Lobendahn said. “I know Don is having an issue with this game. But I’ve seen his games. I’ve seen why things didn’t go his favor, but I’ve also seen the playmakers he has, and it could have gone against me as well as for me. As I’m looking out there at the Dons, I’m seeing what they’ve done out there. I know I have to play four quarters there as well.”

“We’re in the playoff series now,” Olmstead said. “That’s kind of where we were at last year and we told them you have to win every game. Now we’re really in the playoff [series]. We have to win or else, we’re done. Our backs are against the wall and we’ll see what we’re made of.”