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WEEK SIX FOOTBALL – Cerritos has the offensive numbers to leave with a win, but Dons fall to Chino

Cerritos High senior linebacker Jeremiah Bagaygay (left) and junior linebacker Nathaniel Crawford team up to tackle Aiden Estrada of Chino High after one of his three catches in last Thursday night’s 42-21 loss to the Cowboys. PHOTO BY ROXY LIGORRIA.

October 4, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

When looking at film of Chino High leading up to its non-league contest last Thursday night, Cerritos High first-year head coach Demel Franklin knew the Dons had to hold quarterback Diego Ogata in check with his rushing yardage. Ogata was the leading ground gainer for the Cowboys, averaging over 130 yards a game. 

Cerritos managed to do that, as he rushed for 39 yards on four carries. But it was his arm, and the running of Nathan Blanco, plus some defensive plays, that proved to be the difference as Chino doubled up the Dons 42-21. The loss dropped Cerritos’ record to 2-4 as it prepares for its city rivalry game against Gahr High on Friday.

“If we could stop him from running and making a throw, we had a better shot,” said Franklin of Ogata. “But then we’re giving up stuff over the top which is mind boggling.”

Blanco carried the ball six times in Chino’s opening drive the game, scoring from a yard out nearly midway through the stanza. The Dons would respond by holding the ball the rest of the quarter on a combination of nine running plays and five passing plays totaling 58 yards. But on the first play of the second quarter, Nathan Sena picked off a pass thrown by sophomore quarterback Justin Sagun in the end zone. The Cowboys took advantage and went the other way on 13 plays, taking nearly 10 minutes off the clock as Blanco’s second touchdown made it 14-0. 

To add insult to injury, Cerritos went three and out when it got the ball back, but Andrew Fernandez blocked a punt and recovered the ball in the end zone to make it 21-0 with 40 seconds left before halftime. The Dons had the ball for just 8:40 of the half, but gained 142 yards, which was 21 yards fewer than the Cowboys.

“I felt we had a good game plan going in,” said Franklin. “You saw we were able to move the ball all the way to the 10-yard line, then we had a negative play. We tried to throw the ball and instead of throwing it away, we throw it right to [Sena]. It was like déjà vu. It seems like each week we get into that position and we turn the ball over. We cannot do that; we have to learn from that.”

Cerritos High senior running back Josh Park finds some space to run though against Chino High in last Thursday night’s 42-21 non-league loss. Park gained 120 yards on nine carries and caught a pair of passes for 14 yards. PHOTO BY ROXY LIGORRIA.


Cerritos came out with a bang in the third quarter, taking the opening kickoff 80 yards in 11 plays and holding the ball for 6:33 before senior running back Josh Park scored from nine yards out. But Sebastian Alvarado’s long kickoff return put the Cowboys in business at the Cerritos eight-yard line where Blanco’s third score of the night made it 28-7.

Still, the Dons weren’t about to go down without a fight as junior running back Josiah Ungos gained seven yards, then senior quarterback Julian Morales tossed a 24-yard pass to junior wide receiver Ruben Castro and Park scampered for a 49-yard touchdown run to make it 28-14 with 2:45 left in the third quarter. However, the momentum went away 16 seconds later when Ogata found Alvarado for a 70-yard score.

After that, Cerritos ran seven plays on its next three possessions in a combined 3:20 with Alvarado intercepting Morales on consecutive plays in the fourth quarter, the second leading to a 12-yard touchdown connection from Adam Avalos to Brody Quinzon. The final score of the game came from Ungos, whose one-yard score ended a long 13-play, 75-yard drive that took 6:27. 

Morales took over for Sagun and completed his first six passes for 98 yards before an incomplete pass and the two interceptions. Sagun went six of 11 for 60 yards and a pick.

“We went with [Morales] because I’m just looking at my other young quarterback, Sagun, and he felt like the moment was big for him,” said Franklin. “So, I said let’s go with the veteran and see what he could do.”

Cerritos ended the game with 385 yards with Park rushing for 120 yards on nine carries, junior running back Dikshanta Adhikari 43 yards on six carries and Ungos another 38 yards on half a dozen touches. Castro caught six passes for 112 yards and on defense, sophomore linebacker Tyler Ky had 11 tackles while senior linebacker Moises Mendoza added seven tackles.

“I feel like we had some positives, and we have to build off that,” said Franklin. “So, it gives our O-Line confidence, and this is the best game they’ve played all year. I made sure I told them that. I wanted to ride them and get [a touchdown] in running the ball because that makes them feel good. That’s why we stuck with it because that’s what was working for us.

“We still have to figure out a way to make our 21 a 42 and their 42 a 21,” he later added. “We’re going in the right direction. Going into Gahr week…it’s good that we put up 21 points. I’m happy with that part.”

Cerritos will be the visiting team when it plays Gahr on Friday for rights to own the Silver Milk Barrel. This rivalry began in 1972, originally called the Dairy Bowl, but the teams have not played continuously since then. In fact, one year later, all three ABC Unified School District schools played for shiny ensemble, but again, there were breaks in the action.

Last season, the Dons and Gladiators met at Artesia High for the first time since 2017 and Cerritos ended a 13-game losing streak to its northside rivals with a 21-6 victory. Since 1972, Cerritos owns a 23-22 advantage, but the teams did not face each other, or there was no result available in 1975, 1981 and from 2018-2021.

“We’re separated by three miles; all these kids know each other and we know the coaches on the other side,” said Franklin. “Six of my players are on that team from the Cerritos Steelers [Pop Warner] team. So, we know each other. We know what each other does and it’s going to be a hell of a game.”

Gahr enters the contest with a 3-3 mark, but has lost the last two games, including a 44-21 decision to Bellflower High last Friday in the Mid-Cities League opener. The Gladiators have scored 28 points in the last two games after averaging close to 40 points during their 3-1 start to the season. The heart and soul of the team is senior running back Kalen Montgomery, who has rushed for 807 yards on 131 carries and found the end zone 16 times. The rest of the team has combined for 272 yards and three touchdowns while the passing combination of senior Frank Williams and sophomore Roman Acosta has thrown for 619 yards and seven touchdowns.

Gahr will be without the services of senior wide receiver Evan Spurlin-Renfroe (torn ACL) but junior Markell Slaughter, who has caught 25 passes for 381 yards, and Montgomery have to pick up the slack. But as good as Gahr’s offense is, the defense has allowed over 40 points in half its games.

“If we can’t control him, then we’re going to have a long night,” said Franklin of Montgomery. “But we have a few tricks up our sleeve and hopefully we can contain him.”