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WEEK TWO FOOTBALL : Norwalk’s loss to Downey is a win for everyone as Lancers get back on the field

Norwalk High senior running back Milton Roman takes a pitch from sophomore quarterback Caden Barnhill in last Friday night’s opener at Downey High. Roman gained 24 yards on five carries in Norwalk’s 47-0 loss. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.


March 24, 2021
By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

DOWNEY-When last the Norwalk High football team took the gridiron in a regular season game, it was on the losing end of a 34-0 decision at La Mirada High in the 2019 finale. The Lancers had just completed a 3-7 season in which it had lost five straight games, scoring 27 points in those games.

Norwalk was to have started the 2020 season on Aug. 21 at Savanna High, but the entire fall season was scrapped due to the global pandemic. Now, 210 days since that game was to have been played, the Lancers finally kicked off the new and shortened season. Norwalk was whitewashed by Downey High 47-0 last Friday night at Allen Layne Stadium. But no one cared too much about the score or who won or lost. Afterall, there won’t be any playoffs from the 2020 fall sports and the overall team records won’t mean much.

“It was a win for all of us tonight,” said Norwalk head coach Dean Gray said. “It’s a win for all the schools; all the kids playing tonight and I’m very proud of my kids. It’s been a tough year. It’s been a tough year for our community, the country and the world. To see our kids out here playing football and having the parents in the stands is a win for all of us.

“All safety protocols were put in place and we have our little bubble at practice,” he continued. “The kids are doing everything with social distancing the best they can after practice, washing our hands and doing everything right and we were able to play football tonight. And good for Downey too. We just hope that every week, the numbers keep going down and the vaccinations keep going up.”

Downey scored on all five of its possessions in a game in which the running clock was utilized in the fourth quarter. The Vikings had 181 yards of total offense in the first half and were aided by quarterback Chris Hernandez, who ran for a pair of first quarter scores.

Meanwhile, the Lancers were limited to 56 yards in the first half, had four first downs and did not cross midfield until five minutes were left in the half. That came as a result of a 52-yard kickoff return from sophomore David Herrera after a Jacob Skobis touchdown made it 27-0. However, time ran out on Norwalk as it got to the 20-yard line before the half ended.

Three plays into the second half, a 21-yard touchdown pass from Hernandez to Tryse Redford increased the margin to 34-0. Norwalk was driving and was in good shape, getting to the Downey 29-yard line. But a fumbled snap on fourth and one was scooped up by Redford, who returned it 71 yards the other way for another Downey touchdown. Keion Andrew would finish off the game with a 40-yard score as the Lancers were limited to 121 yards in the game, turned the ball over three times and punted twice. They also ran 15 plays in the second half.

“The score tonight…we knew we were playing a great program,” Gray said. “You could see we only had 23 kids dressed tonight and those 23 have come out and the last two to three weeks worked very hard on getting back into football shape and like I said, that’s a win for all of us. Next week, we get ready for Bellflower and the next four games…it’s a win for Bellflower; it’s a win for all of us. Every time we play, it’s a good thing.

“Those are going to happen in the first game,” Gray later said of the turnovers. “We’ve only been practicing for two and a half to three weeks. Usually, you have months and months to prepare. It’s been a whole year, literally a whole year until three weeks ago that we’ve touched the football. So again, [it’s] a win-win for all of us. Some of those things are going to happen and the joy of tonight was seeing kids run up and down the football field for both teams.”

Herrera led Norwalk’s rushing attack with 52 yards on eight carries while senior running back Davin Portillo added 24 yards on a dozen carries. Senior running back Milton Roman picked up 24 yards on five touches and sophomore quarterback Caden Barnhill, who completed one pass for negative yardage, added another 23 yards on eight rushes. Norwalk will visit Suburban League rival Bellflower High tonight for the second of five games.

“We all know that Covid is still out there and that we’re doing everything to protect our kids at all times,” Gray cautioned. “We also know that there are a lot of concerns out there still at all times.”