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605 LEAGUE FOOTBALL-Cerritos going forward, Artesia moving backwards in league-opening shutout

Artesia High junior cornerback Ezequiel Kyle Hilario tries to bring down Cerritos High junior quarterback Jake Bautista in last Thursday’s 605 League opener. Bautista led the Dons with 63 yards on 11 carries and scored on an 18-yard run early in the fourth quarter as Cerritos won 26-0. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer


By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

October 18, 2022~All four head football coaches of the 605 League will agree that their team isn’t that good this season, and that statement seems to be accurate. Entering last Thursday night’s league opener, Artesia High, Cerritos High, John Glenn High and Pioneer High had a combined record of 6-19-1.

But the good thing about a four-team league is you need two victories to clinch at least a CIF-Southern Section playoff berth. Cerritos made the first move towards that plan in its home game against Artesia as the Dons put together their best defensive output in a 26-0 win in the first varsity game on the new field turf surface at Dr. Hanford Rants Stadium at Gahr High.

“It was a little sloppy in the beginning,” said Cerritos head coach Brad Carter. “We were playing different guys in the beginning, and we had a few bad turnovers. But I told the team I’ll take an ugly win over a beautiful loss any day. So, we’ll take it.”

The Dons (3-5, 1-0) took advantage of a depleted Artesia roster that has been getting thinner and thinner each week and did not allow the Pioneers to cross midfield until early in the fourth quarter. Artesia punted on its first four possessions of the first half, gaining 14 yards in 20 plays, then its first three possessions of the second half. In the first half, Cerritos held Artesia (0-7-1, 0-1) to nine plays of negative yardage, no plays longer than nine yards and the last two plays of the half to no yards.

“The kids are just learning,” said Artesia first-year head coach Nate Hollister. “As you can see, from the first game, our roster size has shrunk tremendously. We suited up about 24 players today and just the lack of depth is eating us right now.”

Early on, the Cerritos offense wasn’t having much success either but put together a pair of seven-play drives that ended in a fumble and an interception, respectively. Even when senior quarterback Jake Bautista threw a 23-yard pass to senior wide receiver Alex Martinez on third and 11 with four minutes left in the second quarter to put the ball at the 15-yard line, the play was nullified by an inadvertent whistle.

The Dons would be stalled on downs but got on the board the next time they had the ball as Bautista connected with Martinez for an 18-yard score with one minute left. In fact, Cerritos tried a different approach for this game by speeding up the game with a no huddle offense.

“I think that’s where our offense works the best; we were keeping the tempo up,” said Carter. “It kind of keeps the defense on their heels. Credit to them; they played a good defensive plan against us. We had to adjust, and I felt like we did, but I think a lot of credit goes to them. They did some good things with what they had.”

At the half, Bautista had completed five of seven passes for 65 yards and four players had combined for 105 rushing yards on 22 carries. The score would remain 7-0 until 1:43 was left in the third quarter when sophomore running back Kalib Moran, back from an ankle injury, scored from a yard out. He would complete the game’s scoring with another one-yard run with 3:25 left in the contest while Bautista made it 20-0 on the team’s second play into the final stanza with an 18-yard run.

“We’ve kind of started slow offensively all season and I’m trying to figure that out,” said Carter. “I feel like that’s one of the biggest things we have to work on moving forward, is starting faster offensively. Defense, top to bottom, was fantastic. That’s exciting. Offensively, we’re hitting our stride in the second half now. We just have to figure out how to hit the ground from the beginning.”

Artesia’s stagnant offense didn’t get its first play of double-digit yardage until the second play of its second drive of the third quarter when sophomore quarterback Julius Padilla scrambled for a 12-yard gain, marking the third first down of the game for the visitors. While Padilla was four of nine for 27 yards, he picked up another 30 yards on 15 carries. But seven of those rushes went for negative yardage and he was picked off once.

“It’s just a decision thing,” said Hollister of his quarterback. “A lot of times, he should have just given the ball, but chose to keep it. That just comes with him never playing the position. He’s about five weeks into playing quarterback. He started the season playing receiver and defensive back and he’s still learning it. Sometimes when pressure comes, his first response is to become a receiver with the ball; a running back with the ball as opposed to looking to throw the ball. So, he’s still learning.”

Freshman running back Kamari Westley added 29 yards on nine carries and junior running back Amaree Davis rushed four times to account for all of Artesia’s offense. On defense, Davis and junior Chase Adams each had five and a half tackles while Westley and senior linebacker Foxx Redd each pitched in with three tackles. Senior linebacker Daniel Aguilar had a fumble recovery while junior cornerback Ezequiel Kyle-Hilario had an interception.

“That just comes with being young and inexperienced,” said Hollister. “A lot our guys came from [freshman] football and to go from [freshman] to varsity is tough. The game speed is faster. We had to pull a couple of guys up. DeAngelo [Tucker] is a guy who is a sophomore. Early in the season, he didn’t start, but we had guys who felt football wasn’t for them anymore and chose to quit on us. “We asked a lot of them to kind of come in and play their first varsity game eight weeks into the season,” he continued. “I’m proud of the effort with what they’re doing. It’s just about reps and experience at this point.”

“The whole team played really tough,” said Carter. “I know they’re in a rebuilding year, I know they’re short on numbers. But credit to their kids and staff. They put a really good game plan together. We’ve been on the other end of these scores and that’s not fun. But I think they have a bright future.”

Bautista led Cerritos’ ground game with 63 yards on 11 carries and Moran added another 56 yards on 15 touches while on defense sophomore linebacker Nathaniel Crawford was all over the place with 10 tackles. Senior linebacker Luis Sanchez and junior lineman Jeremiah Bagaygay each chipped in with three and a half tackles.

“It was fun to see us throw the ball a little bit,” said Carter. “We wanted to come in running it, but again, credit to them. They took that away a lot of the game. So, we got a lot more creative passing.”

The Dons hosted Pioneer on Oct. 20 in a battle for first place as the Titans slammed Glenn 51-6 last Thursday. The winner will clinch no worse than a league title and Pioneer is the only team without a 605 League crown. Artesia won it in 2018, Glenn in 2019 and Cerritos the past two seasons. Pioneer enters with a 3-4 overall mark but has won three straight games and before the win over Glenn, the Titans had not scored more than 20 points in any contest.

“That’s going to be for an automatic spot, possibly the league championship,” said Carter. “We’re going to be fired up. It’s going to be senior night for us and we’re going to have full steam ahead and I think we’re going to be hitting on all cylinders.”

Artesia has not scored in nine straight quarters, has been blanked four times this season and has scored six touchdowns this season. Glenn, on the other hand, entered the Oct. 20 game with the Pioneers at 2-5 overall but has one on the field victory. Since a 49-8 win over Firebaugh High on Aug. 26, the Eagles have scored five touchdowns. The loser of this game will be eliminated from playoff contention.

“We’re looking forward to it,” said Hollister. “I know as far as matchups go, we’re a better match with them. They’re having depth problems just like us. Similar to our game against Viewpoint and Marquez, we felt like when we play teams that are matched with us evenly, we have a fighting chance to win. We’re definitely looking forward to it, but we’re not overlooking them. I’m pretty sure they’re not overlooking us. I’m just happy that the guys who are here are sticking with it, and it’s just a young group that’s gaining experience together right now.”