_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES ________________________         EBOOK


Loren Kopff’s 2023 Football Preview – Younger Norwalk squad moves to the Gateway League hoping to have similar success 

Aug. 2, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


10-2 overall last season, 3-1 in the Mid-Cities League, tied for first place, lost to John Muir High 21-0 in the Division 10 quarterfinals

Head coach: Ruben Guerrero (third season, 16-7)

Lost 26 seniors out of 58 players from 2022 opening day roster

Last time missed the playoffs: 2020

2023 schedule

Aug. 18           BYE

Aug. 25           @ La Canada (6-5 overall last season)       

Aug. 31           South Gate (7-5)                                            

Sept. 8            @ John Glenn (2-7)

Sept. 15          @ Linfield Christian (5-6)                             

Sept. 22          Locke (2-9)                                                     

Sept. 29          Downey (12-3)                                               

Oct. 6              @ Warren (9-2)                                                          

Oct. 13            La Mirada (4-6)

Oct. 20            @ Dominguez (4-6)

Oct. 27            @ Mayfair (8-5)                                              

The first season in the Mid-Cities League of the inaugural Suburban Valley Conference was what Norwalk High needed to get back to where the program was from 2008-2013. Although the Lancers won just one Suburban League crown during that time, it advanced to the CIF-Southern Section quarterfinals twice, the semifinals twice and lost in the 2013 Southeast Division championship game. By virtue of sharing the Mid-Cities League title with Bellflower High and Gahr High, the Lancers move to the Gateway League where tougher competition awaits them.

Norwalk was its usual self in 2022, running the double wing offense as it has done for over 15 years and winning at least 10 games for only the third time since 2009. After seeing the program take a dip from 2018-2020, head coach Ruben Guerrero has put Norwalk back on the Southern Section map.

“You always want more when you’re in this position being a competitive person,” said Guerrero. “You always want more, but as I’ve had time to kind of just soak it all in and kind of reflect…we had a really good season; a successful season. I’m very proud of the kids in what they did and what they accomplished. They did some things we hadn’t seen around here in a while. I’m glad we were able to bring something to Norwalk High School that hadn’t been here in a while. I think that was our first playoff win [since 2013], moving on to the second round.”

Guerrero said the difference between his first and second seasons as head coach was the senior class, which was motivated to go farther in the playoffs than in 2021, when Norwalk was bounced in the first round and ended up 6-5. But with the graduation of 26 seniors from last season’s team and the move to the new league, it might be difficult to duplicate what the Lancers did last season.

“I know we lost a lot of players, but we’ve got some kids that have been in the program for a few years, and again, the message is the same,” said Guerrero. “What do you want out of this thing? You will always get out of this what you put in. So, we have some kids that have said, ‘you know what coach, we want to pick up where the other guys left off’. So, we feel really good. It was a special bunch [last season] and now we’re just trying to find a way to have as much success and carry on the legacy that they set up for us.”


Stop me if you’ve heard this before-Norwalk scored over 450 points, including at least 44 in eight games, and was held to one touchdown in the two losses. But as the 2023 season approaches, gone is quarterback Caden Barnhill, who completed six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, and gone are running backs David Herrera and Michael Mueller, who combined for 3030 yards and 40 touchdowns. With that said, senior Rylee Sosa, who was Barnhill’s backup, will assume the quarterback duties with junior Nicolas Barrera as his backup. Sosa, who played in a few games as a junior, has paid his dues sitting behind Barnhill since the Covid-shortened 2020 season. But Guerrero says he knows the offense and has been running it since he was a freshman.

“He’s ready,” said Guerrero. “He’s been working his butt off in the weightroom, he’s been a vocal leader around here and he’s getting the guys in the huddle when we’re in practice. He’s showing every sign of being the captain out on the football field for us and that leader we’re looking for. We have a lot of confidence in him.”

Replacing the two 1,000-yard running backs will be seniors Caleb Mitchell and Anthony Rodriguez on one side of the backfield and junior Ezra Mueller solidifying the other side. Those three combined for 305 yards and five touchdowns last season. Sophomore Diego Cerritos figures to be the leading backup to the three returning backs. When Sosa or Barrera throws the pigskin, which won’t be much, seniors Alex Alvarez and Jorge Ortiz will be the tight ends.

The offensive line will consist of senior left tackle Rafael Rivas, senior left guard Jonathan Hernandez, senior center Adrian Lopez, junior right guard Bobby Mosqueda and junior right tackle Anthony Lemus. 

“I think it’s just going to be a matter of how fast these guys can get up to speed as far as the experience needed to run our offense the way it can run to its fullest potential,” said Guerrero. “They’ve been working very, very hard. It’s not like they haven’t been in games on Friday nights. The only thing I look for is that learning curve, right? How soon are they going to get over that learning curve?


The defense was just as impressive as the offense last season, allowing 189 points and posting three shutouts. There were four other games in which Norwalk yielded 21 points or fewer points. In fact, after giving up 61 points in the first two games, Norwalk allowed 42 points in the next five games. At defensive tackle, it will be senior Jonathan Anguiano, a three-year varsity letterman who had 30 tackles last season, and junior Papo Leiataua (27 tackles, two sacks) while Lopez will lock down the nose tackle position. In the rotation for the defensive line will be senior Dominick Inzunza.

The secondary stacks up with senior Hector Cruz at one corner with Mueller (11 tackles, three interceptions) at the other corner. At safety will be senior Jacob Lopez and Mitchell (13 tackles) while the linebackers will be seniors Jesse Lopez (67 tackles, three sacks), Jonathan Orozco and Ortiz and junior Joel Espinoza. 

“It is shaping up pretty well,” said Guerrero of his defense. “We’ve had a few changes, but the kids have really handled them well. They’ve really, really worked hard to come together as a unit because we had player turnover with graduation. It’s a group that’s coming together. They get fired up to fly around on the field.”


Two things stand out when it comes to Norwalk’s schedule this season. First, it will play four home games after being home nine times last season, including both playoff games. Second. the Lancers will play 10 straight games after their bye before hitting the field for good, giving the young team that extra week before the regular season. Once the regular season begins, Norwalk will face a pair of teams that advanced to the playoffs last season. South Gate High went to the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division 1 quarterfinals. After that comes the city rivalry game with John Glenn High, a team the Lancers have dominated for much of the history of the Mayor’s Cup. The only repeat opponents will be La Canada High, a 49-28 win in the second game, and of course, Glenn, which was a 59-6 contest. 

“We’re preparing for that Gateway League, so if you want to be the best, you have to play the best,” said Guerrero of the first four weeks. “We’re just looking to level up the ballclub with everyone else. 

Once the Lancers get through with Glenn, they hit the teeth of their schedule as their next four opponents went to the playoffs last season. Downey High was in Division 4 last season while Warren High was in Division 2.

“This time last year, I could probably say my perception of [moving to the Gateway League] has changed,” said Guerrero. “But we’ve worked really hard at just developing our program and trying to get into a place where [we] put Norwalk back on the map. We’re going to put our best foot forward and just go for it. A lot of the kids who are returning…they’re pretty excited. [They] get to level up in our competition and I tell them that’s a result of all their hard work.

“We’re going to see some familiar faces and old foes,” he later added. “But again, if you look at it, it is a slate of tough opponents. We’ve come to grips; we’ve come together as a coaching staff, we’ve come together as a team and we see this as an opportunity. We see this as an opportunity to show all the hard work that’s been going on at Norwalk High School for the last couple of years and the kids are fired up.”


For just the second time in over 25 seasons, Norwalk’s homecoming game will be against a non-league opponent as Locke High, which won two games in 2022, is the foe. The other non-league homecoming opponent was Long Beach Jordan High in 2018, a 17-7 loss. The Lancers have won their last two homecoming games by a combined score of 100-8 after losing two straight. This will also be the fourth time since 1998 that the homecoming game is played in September and the second earliest. The game against Jordan was on Sept. 7. Since 1998, Norwalk is 14-10 in such games.


“What I’ve discussed with the team and what we’ve come to as a big group is we’re taking this season in parts,” said Guerrero. “You can’t engulf any one thing at one time. So, we’re going to take it in parts. We have goals…that we can take step by step. Right now, we’re focusing on our first opponent and then we’re working on our preseason. Once we get to the preseason and get through that, then we start looking at league. Once we start looking at league and we get through that, our goal is to be in the position to compete in the Gateway and also have an opportunity to be in the playoffs.”