_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES ________________________         EBOOK



NORWALK MAYOR Ana Valencia and Norwalk High head coach Ruben Guerrero pose with the Mayor’s Cup trophy with the team surrounding them as the Lancers defeated John Glenn High 44-8 last Friday to win its third straight meeting with its city rivals. PHOTO BY LOREN KOPFF

Sign up for local news and alerts; we will not sell your email, who does that?


September 13, 2023

By Loren Kopff

Last season, Norwalk High senior Caleb Mitchell was part of a rushing attack grouped in with ‘the others’ as he saw David Herrera and Michael Mueller each rush for well over 1,000 yards and combine for over 40 touchdowns. Mitchell carried the ball 16 times, gained just under 100 yards and scored once.

Last season, junior running back Ezra Mueller was in the same situation, rushing for about 25 yards more than Mitchell while scoring twice. Now, with his brother and Herrera having graduated, it’s his time and Mitchell’s time to shine. And in the biggest game of the season, at least to those in the City of Norwalk, Mitchell and Mueller did not disappoint.

Mitchell rushed 15 times for 252 yards and scored four touchdowns and Mueller added another 154 yards on 14 touches with a score as the Lancers will keep the coveted Mayor’s Cup on their campus for another year following a 44-8 win at John Glenn High last Friday. Norwalk improved to 2-1 and has scored over 40 points in all three games.

“They’ve just been working very, very hard,” said Norwalk head coach Ruben Guerrero of his new star running backs. “They’ve done an amazing job at learning, not just the offense, but the intricacies of it. Where they could be successful…that learning curve has shortened and they’re taking off. They’re doing a lot of cool, fun things right now.”

“It’s kind of a big deal,” said Mitchell of playing for the Mayor’s Cup. “I love this sport; I love football and knowing we have a game like this where we have rivalries and have fun and play the sport, I think it’s a big part of being a senior and showing up for my teammates.”

Norwalk, which now owns a 40-17 series advantage with the 1965 and 1982 results unknown, got the ball to begin the play and drove 80 yards on six plays, ending with a Mitchell 24-yard touchdown run. It would be the first of six drives for the Lancers in the game, all resulting in touchdowns. After the Eagles were stopped on downs on their first drive, Mueller scored from 33 yards out and with a Mitchell two-point conversion run, it was 15-0 not even nine minutes into the contest.

Glenn’s first opportunity to make some noise came on its second drive as junior wide receiver Jacob Ramirez hauled in a 27-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Luis Vergara as he was falling backwards towards the sideline. The play came on third and nine from Glenn’s 28-yard line and was made possible after a potential fumble recovery from Norwalk senior lineman Jonathan Anguiano was reversed to an incomplete pass. But the Eagles ended that drive with a bad snap from center for a 15-yard loss, an incomplete pass, a false start penalty and a punt.

Norwalk’s lone drive of the second quarter was the longest one of the game, lasting 15 plays and 8:16 as sophomore running back Diego Cerritos cashed in from a yard out. Add a two-point conversion run from senior running back Anthony Rodriguez, and the Lancers increased their lead to 23-0.

Adding insult to injury, Glenn was driving for a potential score before halftime as senior running back Tuiono Tuifua gained 28 yards on four straight plays, getting the ball to the Norwalk 42-yard line. But the half ended with Mueller sacking Vergara on consecutive plays for losses of 14 and eight yards respectively.

“Like I’ve been saying all season, it’s just challenging with just a young team,” said Glenn first-year head coach Elijhaa Penny. “And it showed against an experienced team; an experienced program. Those are just things we just have to keep working on and keep cleaning up and understanding the importance of momentum swings and stuff like teaching a young team.”

By halftime, it was clear Norwalk was going to win its third straight Mayor’s Cup and 18th in the last 20 meetings. It had racked up 180 yards on 26 carries with Mueller gaining 120 yards while the defense was holding the Eagles (2-2) to 25 yards.

“We challenged them this week,” said Guerrero. “Since our first game, that got away from us, we’ve been challenging the defense and they’ve been answering. They answered last week, and they answered tonight. They’re getting better week in and week out. Every practice they’re getting better and it’s starting to show, and we’re starting to become a more complete team again. That’s what’s fun and awesome to see.”

The third quarter wasn’t much better for Glenn as it went three and out to begin the second half and following a Mitchell 74-yard score on Norwalk’s third play of the ensuing drive, two more consecutive bad snaps ended Glenn’s next drive. Mueller would recover a fumble on the second of those bad snaps and the turnover led to a 54-yard touchdown run from Mitchell.

Then, on the second play of the final stanza, Mitchell picked off Vergara, leading to his last score of the night, a 64-yard run as the running clock was put into play to begin the quarter. Mitchell also added three more tackles to his defensive performance, as did Mueller along with his two sacks and fumble recovery.

“Ezra had been really kind of shining and Caleb was like, ‘when is it going to happen’,” said Guerrero. “He’s been very patient, and a spark happened, and he just took off tonight.

“We made some adjustments,” he continued. “[Glenn was] pretty stout. I have to give my hats off to Glenn and the defense because they were pretty stout there for a second. We had to change a couple of things up and when we did, he was able to spring forward for big runs.”

“I was just thinking that I’m next [and] I have to step up,” said Mitchell. “Not only for myself, but for my teammates and I have to show up and show out.”

Glenn wasn’t going down without a fight as it got the ball at its 15-yard line and on four straight running plays, got to the Norwalk 30-yard line. The big play was a 45-yard run from Tuifua. Following a Norwalk penalty Vergara would avoid his team being shutout as he threw a touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Nathan Serrano.

“I did not mind [getting shutout],” said Penny. “I did not mind at all. I just saw the kids still competing hard; still playing hard against a tough program. It’s a program that’s been established and a program that’s been good. I was excited just to watch them compete. But the touchdown did feel good because our young quarterback continues to step up and play hard. That’s all I could ask for as a coach.”

Norwalk senior quarterback Rylee Sosa nor junior signal caller Nicolas Berrera did not attempt a pass and besides the big nights from Mitchell and Mueller, junior fullback Papo Lieataua had 15 yards on four carries while Cerritos gained five yards on three touches. Cerritos also had three tackles.

For Glenn, Vergara was six of 10 for 86 yards while freshman quarterback Sameul Reeves completed his only two passes for 20 yards. Tuifua carried the ball a dozen times, gaining 80 yards while sophomore Terry Henderson added 17 yards on five carries. He also had four and a half tackles while freshman linebacker Andre Romo had three and a half tackles and senior Oracio Macias three

“Watching him on film, he was someone we really noticed,” said Guerrero of Tuifua. “And yes, definite, definite improvement from that squad. They’re doing a good job and getting the guys going and later on in the year, I see good things happening for them. But [Tuifua] is a good little runner and we did notice him on film this week.”

“That’s the beautiful thing about this whole game, this whole season and beyond this,” said Penny. “The younger kids are getting experience and man, once these guys get into it with their bodies and add on a couple of pounds and muscle and we have our offseason program going…I’m these kid’s biggest cheerleader. I’m just going to be so excited once I see the full development of our kids and just watch them grow.”

In fact, with Penny now in charge of the Glenn program, and because he played for Norwalk, he is using the double wing as part of his offense, but obviously not as much as the Lancers.

“It was kind of surprising to see them at the beginning of the year run to that,” said Guerrero. “But when they went to it, it’s very familiar, obviously, because we run it and they run it. But we came to the realization that you know, that’s what Coach Penny knows and that’s what he went with. We felt comfortable because we had success against it defensively last year. We kind of used what we knew from then until now and it helped us out tonight.”

Norwalk will go on the road to face Linfield Christian High on Friday, hoping to continue its solid offensive barrage that has produced 148 points and just over 1,000 yards, all but 72 coming on the ground. Linfield Christian lost to Tahquitz High 28-10 last Friday and has split its first four games. In their two wins, the Lions have scored 94 points but in the two setbacks, they have managed 27 points.

Quarterback Thomas Paschal has passed for 450 yards and five touchdowns but has thrown three interceptions. Micah Little leads the rushing attack with 313 yards on 27 carries with four touchdowns, and as a team, Linfield Christian is averaging almost eight and a half yards per carry.

“We had a common opponent last year in Rio Hondo Prep and we saw that was a tight game,” said Guerrero. “So, we know it’s going to be a tight game [on Friday]; pretty evenly matched, and we’re going to have to go and reassess where we’re at. We’ll go see them on film tomorrow and we’ll try to draw up a plan that will help us be successful next week. But by no means are we looking past them. This game tonight is number three on a list of 10, and that’s what the kids and I came in with this week. We’re past number three and now we’re looking at number four on that list of 10. We’re going to go through those 10 and see where we’re at, at the end of the year.”

For Glenn, it will travel to Mark Keppel High on Friday, hoping to keep the Aztecs winless as they play their fifth game of the season. Mark Keppel was blanked by Azusa High 39-0 last Friday and has scored just 22 points in four games while yielding 164 points.

Prior to last Friday’s game, the Aztecs were averaging just over 100 yards a game on offense and have turned the ball over at least nine times.

“We’ll definitely look at it as a game to get our guys back on track, get back rolling and then get back into things that we do,” said Penny. “Mark Keppel has kind of been struggling a bit lately, but our guys…we can’t go in there with that kind of mindset like we’re going to beat them. I tell my guys every week, we’re 0-0. It’s fresh; it’s a restart.”