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WEEK SIX FOOTBALL – Bozanic, Brown and Nelson help Valley Christian run through Artesia’s defense in blowout win



October 6, 2021

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


It had been nearly 30 years since the Artesia High and Valley Christian High football teams got together on the gridiron, and in any other season that wasn’t fueled by the ongoing trials of the global pandemic situation, last Friday’s long-awaited meeting might have been closer. Instead, the host Defenders ran through and around Artesia’s defense to the tune of 385 yards on 23 carries in a 62-20 conquest that was close for much of the first half.

V.C. scored the most points in a game since crushing Olympic League rival Whittier Christian High 67-14 on Oct. 27, 2017, and the Defenders won their fourth straight game, improving to 4-1 with league action beginning tonight. Artesia remained winless in five games but scored a season-high in points after being held to just one touchdown through the first four games.

V.C. last played on Sept. 17 and first-year head coach Kevin McCarthy said his team had a lot of rest with a lot of short practices, that he didn’t install a lot of new things and didn’t see too many new things to do against Artesia, adding that they have been doing the same things it has been doing all season.

One of those things V.C. has been doing well this season is run the ball and five plays into the game, Nick Bozanic scored from 22 yards out, a recurring theme for the junior running back. But the Pioneers answered and did something they had not done this season-score in the opening quarter. Artesia held the ball for 5:17 and capped off a nice 10-play drive with a 41-yard touchdown run from senior running back Erin Moses. The Pioneers went for the two-point conversion and failed.

After a 10-yard return from sophomore Bruno Caldarella on the ensuing kickoff, plus a facemask penalty on Artesia, the Defenders went up 14-6 on a 39-yard score from Bozanic. But Artesia answered back and after forcing V.C. to punt for the only time in the game, the Pioneers made it 14-13 just over two minutes into the second quarter when senior quarterback K’Len Williams scored on a six-yard run.

The chess game continued as Bozanic scored his third touchdown in as many carries, this one from five yards out and after senior running back John Nelson made it 28-13 on a 53-yard run with 2:04 left in the half, Bozanic added his fourth score, this time a four-yard run, with 19.2 second remaining. He would rush for 106 yards on seven carries, all but one of those coming in the first half.

“There were, obviously, opportunities today that kind of just came to fruition,” McCarthy said. “We didn’t expect for Nick to be such a big part of the plan. What we did expect was to try to stretch it sideline to sideline and that worked out pretty well in the first half. And then putting [senior quarterback] Rocco [Caldarella] in the second half was just…we have to lay the foundation for what we’re going to be for the rest of the year.”

“I thought we played better,” said Artesia head coach Don Olmstead. “We just made mistakes after mistakes. It’s like we keep the game close; we played hard for a little while and then when something goes bad, we just tuck our head down between our legs and we don’t play very well. It’s just adversity and we have to be able to fight through when things don’t go our way.”

Artesia was still feeling good about its position when Williams launched a 67-yard scoring strike to sophomore wide receiver Pablo Cruz on the third play of the second half. But V.C. scored on its next two possessions-a 14-yard run from junior running back Major Brown and a 50-yard run from Nelson, who would lead everyone in rushing with 158 yards on only five carries.

To add insult to injury, Artesia senior punter Adrian Martinez had a punt blocked by senior defensive lineman Ellis Negron at the Artesia 47-yard line and as the ball trickled backwards and into the end zone, Negron picked up the pigskin for a 56-20 lead.

“He’s a great kid and a great player,” McCarthy said. “I don’t know that he knew where the ball went and then when he went to pick it up, I think he was trying to run it out of the end zone. So, it was confusing in a lot of ways, but it was a lovely play for him.”

The last score of the night came early in the fourth quarter when Brown scored from 45 yards out immediately after senior cornerback Noah Glonchak picked off Williams on the second play of the stanza.

“Defensively, we weren’t good,” Olmstead said. “We’ll try to do better and see what we can do differently and go from there.”

Five players combined to rush for those 385 yards on 23 carries with Brown gaining 75 yards on eight touches and Rocco Caldarella adding another 33 yards on two carries. In fact, Olmstead said he was concerned about Caldarella, among other things, because the Defenders have been known to utilize three quarterbacks in their games this season. But on this night, V.C. senior quarterback Logan Lemmonier completed two of three passes for 45 yards. Defensively, Rocco Caldarella and junior safety Jack Turnbow each had six and a half tackles while junior Ryan Bouma added six tackles.

Williams completed 10 of 20 passes for 173 yards and gained another 43 yards on 14 carries while Moses had 85 yards on 15 rushes. Cruz caught nine of those passes for 115 yards. Junior linebacker Joshua Peck led Artesia’s defense with four tackles while Moses had three tackles.

“They’re getting better every week, and I think you saw that tonight,” Olmstead said. “At times there were glimpses of really good things when at times they just weren’t very good. It’s just the peaks and valleys of our season kind of go with every game and every snap.”

“They run their offense really well,” McCarthy said. “Their quarterback is obviously a big ‘ole athlete; he’s a dangerous player. [Moses] is a dangerous player and the things that they run, they run very well.”

Now the fun begins for the Defenders as they host league rival Village Christian tonight for their homecoming game. Village Christian enters the contest undefeated in five games and is led by quarterback Nate Bennett, who has completed 74 of 123 passes for 1,304 yards and 20 touchdowns while being picked off just twice. Logan Everett leads the ground game with 92 carries and 776 yards with nine touchdowns while a quartet of receivers have caught at least 10 passes-Sam Faulkner (27 receptions, 338 yards, six touchdowns), Julius Oliver (17 receptions, 327 yards, four touchdowns), Rhett Gordon (10 receptions, 250 yards, five touchdowns) and Evan Clarizo (10 receptions, 215 yards, four touchdowns). Village Christian also has punted six times.

Defensively, the Crusaders have 14 ½ sacks, led by Andrew Huezo’s seven and a half and have nine interceptions by seven different players. In order to come out with a victory, McCarthy said the Defenders need to tighten some things up on defense as they had some glaring errors against Artesia. Offensively, he said if his team can do the things they do so well, the game against Village Christian should be fun.

“In my estimation, we won the games we were supposed to win, Ontario Christian notwithstanding,” McCarthy said. “Maybe we weren’t supposed to win that one, and St. Paul looks like they’re pretty good. But we’re in a good position. Village [Christian] is very dangerous; they’re putting up a lot of points.”

Artesia will visit Westminster High tonight, which boasts a 5-1 record after falling to Katella High 45-6 last Friday. Lions quarterback Roman Harris is 29 of 56 for 483 yards and five touchdowns with Jason Pham the leading receiver as he has caught 13 passes for 254 yards and found the end zone four times. Carrying the ball will be Ezekiel Cedillo, who has 34 rushes for 251 yards and two touchdowns, and Alex Haro, who has gained 219 yards on 39 touches and a pair of touchdowns. The Westminster defense has posted 11 sacks and half a dozen interceptions. This will be Artesia’s final non-league game before it hosts John Glenn High on Oct. 15.

“It’s another week for us to try to get better, and our goal is to get to league ready to go,” Olmstead said. “I think there were times tonight that you saw better stuff, and we’ll keep just growing as an offense and a defense. But we have to get back to the drawing board on defense and see if we can do better. Tonight was not very good.”