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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – John Glenn showcases new running attack as Eagles rally from first quarter hole

September 7, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

The John Glenn High football team had to wait 15 minutes longer to begin its home game with University High Charter last Thursday. The Wildcats from the CIF-Los Angeles City Section did not arrive on Glenn’s gridiron until 6:45 and was granted 30 minutes of warmup time.

The delay didn’t seem to bother the team from Los Angeles, whose campus is located between Santa Monica and the 405 freeway. University raced to a 14-0 first quarter lead but the second quarter and fourth quarters were owned by Glenn, which prevailed 32-28. Sophomore running back Terry Henderson scored the game-winner with 53 second remaining on a seven-yard run capping a back and forth final quarter that saw the lead change hands three times.

“Just going back to [the first game], we were in the same situation as a young team; a young head coach, young players,” said Glenn first-year head coach Elijhaa Penny. “That moment was a defining moment for the team, a defining moment for the program and the school. I feel like the growth for my boys has just been excellent. It’s a beautiful thing to see our boys just growing; trusting coaching and just playing our style of football, just grinding it out.”

Jahdiss Luapo torched the Glenn defense for 70-yard touchdown run on the last play of the first quarter. But on the second play of the second quarter, senior running back Gabriel Vergara got the Eagles on the board with a 48-yard run. Later in the stanza, the Eagles engineered a seven-play, 47-yard drive that consumed 2:14. A 31-yard scoring pass from sophomore quarterback Luis Vergara to senior wide receiver Oracio Macias, plus a two-point conversion run from junior running back Tuiono Tuifua 

“It’s just a testament to the kids in believing in us, and us believing in the kids,” said Penny. “We put them in the right spots to succeed and they’re doing their job once they get into those right spots to succeed.”

The only score of the third quarter came five minutes into the second half when Luapo scored from 18 yards out, then added a two-point conversion run. But early in the fourth quarter, Gabriel Vergara converted on third and goal with a three-yard score and a 24-22 lead. Then the Wildcats regained the lead with 1:53 remaining as quarterback Payton Graue rolled out to his right and weaved his way through the defense for a 47-yard run.

“Like I said, we have a young team and sometimes they’ll go in there and try to figure things out, and that’s expected from a young team,” said Penny. “But once we got our guys settled down and got all the nerves out, they just played how we practice. They stuck to the details and stuck to techniques and then they just believed that this is still our kind of game. They weren’t busting 20 or 10-yard runs all game. We were making them work for it.”

Luis Vergara completed seven of 14 passes for 118 yards, but it was the ground game that excelled. Tuifua led the Eagles with 74 yards on 14 carries, Gabriel Vergara had 72 yards on seven carries and Henderson pitched in with 67 yards on 12 carries.

“It’s a luxury to have those dudes,” said Penny. “Especially, working with those guys day in and day out, they take coaching well. We coach them hard, and we are really tedious with our details every day. Just having those guys compliment Tui is huge because once Tui gets rolling and he needs a breather, we have no issue giving the ball to Gabriel or Terry.”

Glenn will entertain city rival Norwalk High in the annual Mayor’s Cup game on Friday, hoping to end a two-game skid to the Lancers. While Penny has installed a milder version of the double wing offense that has made Norwalk famous for years, he knows his defense will have a hard time slowing down the Lancers, who are coming off a 63-0 win over South Gate High last Friday. That came on the heels of a 50-43 loss to La Canada High in its season-opener. Junior running back Ezra Mueller leads Norwalk with 273 yards on 21 carries while senior running back Caleb Mitchell has gained 170 yards on 20 touches. 

“I don’t know; I really don’t have those answers,” said Penny on how to slow down Norwalk. “I’m just thinking, and I believe it will be one of those games where everyone’s emotions will be high, and it will just be a straight slugfest because I don’t think anybody can stop our double wing. I just look at the game as a slugfest, one of those classic boxing matches [like George] Foreman against [Muhammad] Ali and they’re just going toe to toe to toe to toe to toe to toe to toe. Hopefully we’ll come out victorious.”

In other football action:

Artesia High (2-1) @ Ocean View High (2-1)-See Artesia/Bolsa Grande High game story.

Prediction: Artesia 35, Ocean View 24

Gahr High (2-0) @ Garden Grove High (1-2)-The Gladiators are already one win shy of tying their 2022 output. Last Friday, Gahr routed Ocean View High 43-7. The heart and soul of the ground game is senior Kalen Montgomery, who had 142 yards and scored all three touchdowns in an opening-season victory at Valley Christian High. Last season, Gahr was blanked by Garden Grove 21-0 and the previous season, was on the wrong side of a 48-0 contest.

The Argonauts fell to Santa Ana High 41-21 last Friday, giving up 28 points in the second half. Historically, Garden Grove has been more of a rushing team and this season is no exception. Pablo Reyes leads the ground game with 469 yards on 77 carries with three touchdowns while Branden Roth has gained 196 yards on 33 carries with the only other rushing touchdown. He has also thrown for 189 yards and four touchdowns. 

Prediction: Gahr 38, Garden Grove 20

Norwalk (1-1) @ Glenn (2-1)-See Glenn/University game story.

Prediction: Norwalk 42, Glenn 28

Long Beach Jordan High (3-0) @ La Mirada High (0-3)-It was another bad loss for the Matadores, who fell to Servite High 60-14 last Friday at Cerritos College. La Mirada has scored just five touchdowns this season and allowed at least 28 points in each game. It’s the worst start to a season since 2018 when La Mirada dropped the first seven games, scoring 51 points in the process. 

The Matadores will have their hands full with the Panthers, who love to throw, and throw, and throw. Jordan is coming off a 31-0 win against George Washington Prep last Friday and quarterback Jarret Nielsen has thrown for 1,062 yards and eight touchdowns. He has completed over 70 percent of his passes and his top target is Jake Bautista, a transfer from Cerritos High. Bautista has caught 20 passes for 353 yards and four touchdowns. Right behind him is Deonte Tucker, who has 18 receptions for 277 yards and three touchdowns. On the ground, Jordan Washington has rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns. Last season, he gained nearly 1,400 yards and found the end zone 17 times.

Prediction: Jordan 42, La Mirada 14
Valley Christian High (0-3) @ Chino High (1-1)-Another team struggling is Valley Christian, which was whitewashed by Aliso Niguel High 55-0 last Friday. The Defenders, who have yielded 125 points, was held to 178 yards against the Wolverines. Senior quarterback Joe DeYoung was 13 of 18 for 93 yards while sophomore running back Tyson McNeese gained 54 yards on seven touches.

After a 27-26 overtime win against Laguna Beach High in its opener, Chino fell to Diamond Bar High 43-36 last Friday. The Cowboys are led by running backs Nathan Blanco and Diego Ogata who have combined for 546 yards on 59 carries and seven touchdowns.

Prediction: Chino 35, V.C. 14

Last week’s predictions: 5-2

Season to date: 15-3


While the Mayor’s Cup is Friday, the city rivalry in girls volleyball took centerstage this past Tuesday as Norwalk defeated Glenn 25-7, 23-25, 25-12, 25-13 as both teams prepare for their respective league campaigns. Senior setter Alyssa Dorado served five straight points and senior outside hitter Kendall Nakano reeled off seven straight points in the opening set as the Eagles had a brief 2-0 lead on a pair of aces from senior setter Abbey Zavala.

In the second set, Glenn took control at the end of the first rotation as senior libero Heaven Lee had two straight aces and a kill to put her team up 12-7. The lead would extend to 17-11 on two aces from senior outside hitter Jess Aguilera, a kill from senior opposite hitter Rose Felix and a serving error.

But the Lancers dominated the final two sets, especially in the third when Dorado served12 straight points after the Eagles once again led 2-0. Junior middle blocker Samantha Munoz and freshman middle blocker Mirei Sanchez each had 15 kills for Norwalk (9-4) while sophomore outside hitter Valeria Mejia paced the Eagles (3-3) with 11 kills.

Glenn visited Western High this past Wednesday and will host Artesia on Friday in the 605 League opener before going to Whitney High on Tuesday. Norwalk will participate in the Whittier Classic Cardinal Tournament on Friday and Saturday before going to Bellflower High on Tuesday and facing Mayfair High on Thursday.