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605 LEAGUE FOOTBALL – Cerritos starts fast to roll past Glenn, wins ninth straight league contest

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By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

November 1, 2022~Cerritos High head coach Brad Carter had been waiting all season for a game that involved a diversity of scoring. Against John Glenn High last Friday in the regular season finale, there were two safeties, two kickoff returns for touchdowns, an interception returned for a touchdown and four rushing touchdowns.

Most of those came in the opening quarter as the Dons crushed the Eagles 52-20 in a contest that was over almost as soon as it began. Seven seconds into the game, Cerritos junior defensive back Diego Martinez recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff and Glenn wouldn’t be the same. Four plays later, sophomore running back Kalib Moran scored on a one-yard run.

A deep kickoff from junior Moises Mendoza pinned the Eagles deep, which resulted in Cerritos junior lineman Jeremiah Bagaygay tackling Glenn junior punter Gabriel Vergara in the end zone for a safety. That was followed by a 65-yard kickoff return from sophomore Dikshanta Adhikari on a reverse from junior quarterback Jake Bautista and just like that, it was 15-0 just over three minutes into the game.

The onslaught continued when junior defensive back Gabe Gaudi returned an interception 15 yards for a touchdown, then tackled Glenn senior running back Manny Sigala in the end zone for another safety within 11 seconds of each other. Moran would score again, this time from nine yards out and before the midway part of the quarter, it was 31-0.

“It was fun to see us start fast,” said Carter. “Again, it was like a snowball. There was a safety, there was a [kickoff] returned for a touchdown, there was a pick-six. So, it was all positives for us and those were all great plays by everybody.”

On the second play of the second quarter, Moran tacked on an 18-yard rushing touchdown and when the Dons got the ball back, Bautista added a 34-yard score and a 45-0 lead. Glenn would avoid the goose egg when Sigala ended a nine-play, 57-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown run. But on the ensuing kickoff, Adhikari was at it again, returning the pigskin to the house 87 yards.

“Honestly, it was all up front,” said Adhikari. “The blocking was great. I just saw the hole, ran full speed and just got there both times.”

Although the Dons were up 52-6 at the half, it was the host Eagles who were controlling the clock with their 18:31-5:29 advantage. However, Cerritos was still outgaining Glenn 163-99 as Moran had 71 yards on seven carries and Bautista, who completed three of four passes, had totaled 81 yards in offense.

“He’s a great teammate, man,” said Adhikari of Moran. “We rely on him, and he just does his job. He never complains. Whatever coach needs him to do, he’s out there and he’ll get it done.”

The second half was played under running clock conditions with the Cerritos backups running 16 plays for 60 yards while the Eagles got fourth quarter touchdowns from sophomore Tuiono Tuifua, who caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Emmanuel Enriquez, and a 25-yard run from junior Adrien Aleman with 2:05 left in the contest.

Moran finished the game with 90 carries on eight touches while on defense, at least 20 players had at least one tackle, led by sophomore linebacker Devyn Chantha (five and a half), senior lineman Shayaan Ahmed (four and a half) and Bagaygay (three and a half).

“It feels good,” said Adhikari. “We worked hard all season to earn this, and we just came out here, executed and everybody did their job to get the win.”

There were other story lines besides the outcome of the game and craziness of the opening quarter. The win was the fourth straight for the Dons, who ended the regular season at 5-5. But it marked the third straight season Cerritos went 3-0 in 605 League action, all under Carter. During that time, Cerritos has outscored Artesia High 82-19, Glenn 159-61 and Pioneer High 126-44. In the first two years of the league’s existence before Carter took over the program, the Dons lost all six league games.

“I didn’t have expectations like that,” said Carter. “I just took the job. I wanted to work really hard right away and get the kids believe in themselves. It was just one game at a time. There’s been highs and lows; it hasn’t all been peaches. But it’s been fun winning league games for sure.”

In the past 25 years of Cerritos football and of the head coaches who have been at the school at least three seasons, Carter trails only one other in victories. Kurt Bruich went 25-17 from 1998-2001 while Carter currently has a 13-12 mark. In fact, before Carter came to Cerritos, the program had gone 13-54 under three coaches from 2013-2019.

“I would like to start the seasons better,” said Carter. “I think the last two seasons we’ve started slow. That’s probably to our opponent’s credit; they’re stronger than maybe what we’re used to seeing in league. We look at our preseason as we like to play up to hopefully prepare us for league, and it’s kind of been the case the last two years.

“Again, every year is different,” he continued. “But right now, I think we have a lot of young sophomores, we have a lot of young juniors on the team, and we seem to be hitting our stride. So, it’s exciting.”

The Dons have been able to score this season, even before league play began, and only had one game in which they were held in single digits. But the defense also allowed over 30 points in half its games.

“We had to switch some positions around because the young guys like [myself] needed to get used to the varsity speed,” said Adhikari of the slow start. “It’s just experience and as the season progressed, everybody got better.”

Cerritos will host Colton High in the Division 13 first round playoffs on Friday. Meanwhile, it has been a long season for the Eagles, who finished 2-7 overall and winless in the league. One of those two wins was a forfeit against Long Beach Cabrillo High. It also marked the final game as head coach for David Cruz, who went 5-15 assuming those duties. Cruz will stay on the staff to help the new head coach.

“When we finally got through Covid, all I wanted to do was get the kids to know how to play football,” said Cruz. “Even though our record doesn’t indicate that, I believe the kids know how to play. They know the basic fundamentals; they know what’s supposed to be going on. I think there’s a bright future because they do know how to play, and we did accomplish our goal. They will know how to be successful in the future. Just right now, there’s too many hurdles in our way.”

In Glenn’s lone on the field victory, it scored 49 points against Firebaugh High. In the other games, the Eagles totaled 73 points with 41 coming in the three league contests. The Eagles have also been decimated all season with injuries, and Cruz believes if the team was healthier, it may have been a different season.

“For the most part, if we would have been fully manned,” admitted Cruz. “I’m still missing players today. But if we were fully manned, and I had everybody out here, yes, I would feel comfortable. It’s just not that way; we’re missing too many pieces and it’s tough for us to compete with teams that have been practicing everyday throughout the summer and have their full teams.”

“We’ve been on the other end of these scores and again, the best part about high school sports is it teaches you about life,” said Carter. “There are highs, there are lows and I credit those kids for sticking it out and playing tough. They came out in the second half and had some good plays. So, again, credit to their staff and their program for continuing to fight. I think they have a bright future over there.”

All was not lost for Glenn as it said goodbye to 13 seniors with the rest of the team consisting of 11 sophomores, 10 juniors and seven freshmen on varsity by the time the season had come to an end. Because of the high number of underclassmen, Cruz was pleased with the character building, saying it was the top positive from a dismal season.

“I’ve seen little boys grow up to become men,” said Cruz. “Some of the kids are seniors and it’s come a while to finally mature. But it’s nice to see those seniors develop their character, and I think they’re prepared to go out into the worlds now. We did our job; our goal is to teach football and teach life skills doing it. I believe that [the players] received those.”