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Loren Kopff’s 2023 Football Preview – Former city rival and NFL player hopes to turnaround struggling John Glenn program

Aug. 2, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


2-7 overall last season, 0-3 in the 605 League, fourth place

17-25 overall last five seasons

Head coach: Elijhaa Penny (first season)

Lost 14 seniors out of 41 players from 2022 opening day roster

Last time made the playoffs: 2019

2023 schedule

Aug. 18           Bassett (5-8 overall last season)    

Aug. 25           @ Rancho Dominguez (3-6)

Aug. 31           University (1-8)

Sept. 8            Norwalk (10-2)                                   

Sept.15           @ Mark Keppel (0-10)

Sept. 21          @ Glendale (1-9)

Sept. 29          Godinez (1-9)

Oct. 6              BYE

Oct. 12            @ Cerritos (5-6)                                 

Oct. 19            Pioneer (4-7)                                      

Oct. 26            @ Artesia (1-8-1)

Just when you thought the John Glenn High football program might be turning the page and getting back to being competitive the way it was in 2018 and 2019 when the Eagles went to the CIF-Southern Section playoffs, things have gone south. Glenn has won five games since Nov. 1, 2019. But new head coach Elijhaa Penny, a former Norwalk High standout and more recently of the New York Giants, takes over as the program’s 11th head coach since 1998.

“I look at it as a great challenge, not only for myself, but for the coaches who are on staff as well,” said Penny. “I’m enjoying the process of watching these kids just develop day in and day out. It’s a huge testament already to the coaches who are here just helping me develop the kids at the pace they’re moving at. I would say overall, it’s definitely a blessing.”

Penny said since he was hired, the players have bought in to the program well, work how the coaches work and have responded to every challenge thrown their way. 

One of the two victories last season was a forfeit against Long Beach Cabrillo High in the second week, which was a 32-13 decision on the field. A week five home contest against Hawthorne High was cancelled and came a week after falling to Norwalk 59-6 and a week before its scheduled bye week.

Penny also added that the toughest part of him being Glenn’s new coach has been relaying certain verbiage back to the kids as his last experience with football was in the NFL. But he wants to reiterate he has a great coaching staff, which includes Freddy Easter, former CIF champion Saeed Galloway from Dominguez High, Darrick Rice, a former defensive coordinator at Norwalk when Penny played there, plus former Norwalk standouts Billy Moore and older brother Robert Penny along with Kurt Davis from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. 


Glenn scored 122 points last season, but 49 of those came against Firebaugh High in the second game of the season and 35 in the last two games combined against Artesia High and Cerritos High. Of the 14 seniors lost, the Eagles have to replace Emmanuel Enriquez at the quarterback position and Penny has tabbed junior Raymond Acosta, a tight end last season, as the starting quarterback with sophomore Luis Vergara and freshman Israel Lewis as the backups. 

Acosta was once a tackle in his earlier high school days and after seeing some film on him and watching him throw over the summer, Penny thought he was somebody who was just as talented as Enriquez. 

“During seven on seven’s this [past] spring and the tournaments that we’ve been to, Ray has been tearing it up and looking good,” said Penny. “I’m excited for him and his transition…I believe that Ray is a football player. We call him a quarterbacker because he’s a big guy. He throws with a huge arm, and he likes to hit too.”

Last season, people were raving about Tuiono Tuifua being the next best star running back to put on a Glenn jersey. Then he got injured early in the season and the ground game wasn’t the same. Now, he returns as a junior and still considered as one of the premier backs in the 605 League. Penny says his progression in the offseason has been going well and he’s been one of the players who has been picking up things fast. Even the former coaches from last season and current administrators who stop by to watch practice can’t believe how much bigger, faster and stronger Tuifua has gotten. 

Joining him in the backfield will be senior Devin Lewis and sophomores Terry Henderson and Darron Walker. Although Penny played in a double wing when he was at Norwalk, there will be some hints of that this season at Glenn, but nowhere near the consistency of Norwalk. All four running backs will also catch some passes. 

Listed as wide receivers will be-senior Alfonso Vega, whom Penny compares him to Julian Edelman because he makes a lot of tough catches, and juniors Noah Castanon and Jacob Ramirez. Sophomore Andres Escobar is another wide receiver to keep an eye on and senior Marcus Jackson will be the tight end. 

The offensive line will have five new starters with senior left tackle Adrien Aleman, junior left guard Johdan Escobar, junior center Joshua Frausto, sophomore right guard Ivan Galindo and senior right tackle Damian Garcia.

“We definitely have some double wing in there just because of where i come from and my history,” said Penny of this season’s offense. “But then again, we have other formations. We’re going to spread the ball out; open it up and pass the ball more. So, we’re definitely going to be a more balanced-attack team.

“What I like about my offense is that we obviously get to run and smash opponents and break their will with our run game,” he continued. “The extra blockers at the point of attack is always good for us, especially when we have talented runners like we have. The things I don’t like about the offense, or I dislike about it is that once you get down and you’re running the ball, your playbook is limited. But like I said, the staff that we have here…I had coaches up all night just scheming different things out of different formations. For those moments, we’ll be prepared.”


Glenn gave up 385 points, including over 50 points in five of the last six points and trying to prevent numbers like that will be Aleman, Johdan Escobar, Garcia and sophomore Abraham Beltran on the defensive line with Ramirez and Walker in the secondary joined by Andres Escobar at one safety and freshman Samuel Reeves. Vega is listed as one of the top cornerbacks as well.

Probably the strength of the defense will be the linebackers, headlined by seniors O.J. Romero and Gabriel Vergara, Henderson and Tuifua.

“I love the fact that we’re able to get into different fronts and the kids [have been responding] to is,” said Penny. “We have so many packages that we’ve been practicing for different scenarios. The good thing about our defense is that the kids…they adapt well to when we make our adjustments and stuff like that. I love everything about our defense; I really don’t know what I don’t like.”


The Eagles softened up their schedule this season to make just about every game a comparable matchup. All non-league opponents except for Norwalk are new from last season’s schedule and four of the 10 opponents went to the playoffs last season-Bassett High, Norwalk, Cerritos and Pioneer High. Bassett was the only one that won two playoff games and Rancho Dominguez High and University High are from the CIF-Los Angeles City Section.

“We’ve seen a lot of Bassett on tape; they do a lot of things well,” said Penny. “But we’ve seen our guys progress at a fast pace, and we really don’t try to get caught up into too much of what teams did last year because this is high school ball and you have a totally different team from the team you had last year.”

Despite the domination by Norwalk in the Mayor’s Cup over the history of the rivalry game, Penny refuses to act like it’s another game for Glenn. He says it’s going to be a good game for the city in general and believes it’s going to be good entertainment for everybody in Norwalk from the alumni of both schools to the students, staff and faculty.

If the Eagles can get to 5-2, or 6-1 before their bye week, they will be sitting in a good position to grab one of the two automatic playoff berths from the league or have a good enough record to get an at-large berth to the postseason.

“It is very important,” said Penny. “I believe it will give the boys the right kind of confidence that they need going into the playoffs. And that’s our plan. We plan on being in and playing in the playoffs. I believe that right after Norwalk, on paper, they are pretty good matchups and I believe that’s the most important stretch of the season.”


Glenn will be seeking the program’s seventh homecoming win since 1999 when it hosts Godinez High on Sept. 29. The Eagles last won a homecoming game in 2017 when they dismantled Cerritos 64-25. It marked the most points scored in a homecoming game in over 25 seasons. Godinez will also be the third non-league homecoming opponent in the last four seasons and fourth since at least 1999.


“Just taking over the program has truly been a blessing,” said Penny. “I’m just truly excited for what the future holds. Like I said, the kids have bought into the program. They’re confident, they’re fast, they’re physical and right now, we’re in the midst of teaching them discipline. Once I feel like we get the discipline all the way down, then I’m sure we’ll find some success.”