_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES ________________________         EBOOK


WEEK SEVEN FOOTBALL – Gahr rallies for pair of fourth quarter touchdowns against Cerritos, reclaims Silver Milk Barrel

The blocking of Cerritos High senior lineman William Peterson paves the way for junior running back Dikshanta Adhikari in last Friday’s city rivalry contest at Gahr High. Adhikari gained 119 yards on 21 carries but it was Gahr that rallied for a 27-20 victory.

October 9, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Recent history shows that when the Cerritos High and Gahr High football teams faced off on the gridiron, the contest would end in a, no pun intended, slaughter. From 2005-2017 Gahr won 13 straight meetings against its city rivals by an average score of 42.6-4.3 with seven shutouts.

After a four year hiatus, the rivalry resumed last season with the Dons finally knocking off the Gladiators 21-6. But last Friday night, Gahr junior Markell Slaughter stole the show as he rushed for 192 yards on 17 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns, including the game winner with 7:23 remaining in the game as Gahr got past Cerritos 27-20 in front of a raucous, late arriving crowd at Dr. Hanford Rants Stadium. And whether you call it the Silver Milk Jug, Silver Milk Barrel or even the Dairy Bowl, for you historians, everyone who was at the game agreed it was one of the best Cerritos-Gahr games in a long time, maybe the best ever.

“Our past three games, we had been struggling a bit,” said Slaughter. “We went on a two-game losing streak, then this game, I knew I had to step it up, take control of this team; take leadership, and get it done for my team.”

“That’s what I told [my team],” said longtime Gahr head coach Greg Marshall, who gladly took back the shiny silver barrel following the game. “I go, ‘that was the best game, ever’. Win or lose, I’m not saying because we won, but either way, that was a very well-played game.”

So well-played that Gahr had one drive in the first and third quarters while Cerritos had one drive in the third quarter. So well-played that Cerritos had three drives of over six minutes. So well-played that Gahr had four offensive players gain all the 317 yards it picked up and so well-played that Gahr was not penalized until the first play of the fourth quarter. 

CERRITOS HIGH junior linebacker Devyn Chantha (#23) and senior cornerback Ruben Ligorria stop Gahr High senior running back Kalen Montgomery in last Friday’s city rivalry game. Gahr defeated Cerritos 27-20 as Montgomery rushed 12 times for 90 yards and scored the tying touchdown early in the fourth quarter.PHOTO BY ROXY LIGORRIA.


But trailing 20-13 entering the fourth quarter, Gahr senior running back Kalen Montgomery scored from a yard out less than two minutes into the final stanza. Six plays following that score, senior cornerback Ahmeer Barner picked off Cerritos sophomore Justin Sagun at the 37-yard line. That’s where Slaughter took off on a 63-yard score which would be the deciding touchdown. Known more for his receiving duties where he entered the game with 381 yards on 25 receptions, this was his best rushing game as a Gladiator.

“I worked really hard for this, this week specifically,” said Slaughter. “I was ashamed [last year], but I knew this year was my year to win the jug back and we’re going to keep it here for the rest of our lives.” 

“We made him work for that touchdown, so the kids knew that they could do it,” said Marshall. “I think it was just Markell who went with the running quarterback stuff.”

For the past three weeks, Marshall’s plan was to try to throw the ball more to limit the usage out of Montgomery. This was the plan since senior wide receiver Evan Spurlin-Renfroe injured his knee on the first play against Santa Ana Valley High on Sept. 24. As it turned out, senior quarterback Frank Williams was one of four for 17 yards and an interception against the Dons.

The game began with Slaughter gaining 22 yards on the first three plays, all by way of the direct snap. Later in the drive, Williams thought he had thrown an 18-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Calvin Thomas III. But the ball was bobbled as he went through the end zone and the Gladiators were held on downs at the Cerritos 15-yard line.

Thomas redeemed himself nearly a minute later when he picked off senior quarterback Julian Morales at the nine-yard line and went straight the end zone. The extra point attempt was no good and the 2023 installment of the “Dairy Bowl” was off and running.

“There were a lot of mistakes on our part,” said Cerritos first-year head coach Demel Franklin. “A lot of mistakes; communication errors, turnovers, missed tackles and wrong play calling. I have to own that stuff too. It didn’t go the way we planned, but I know we left everything out on the field just like they did.”

Cerritos would run out the remainder of the quarter, getting a combination of rushes from senior running back Josh Park (18 yards, five carries), junior running back Dikshanta Adhikari (27 yards, four carries) and a Morales 11-yard gain.

But on the last play of the quarter, the drive stalled at the one-yard line on fourth and goal from the two and the Gladiators immediately went 99 yards the other way to begin the second quarter. Slaughter, from the direct snap, and Montgomery did all the damage and with 6:42 left in the half, Slaughter scored on a seven-yard run. All 17 carries on the night from Slaughter were from the direct snap.

“We have to get that; that’s absolutely unacceptable,” said Franklin of the fourth down stop. “That’s absolutely unacceptable to get stopped right there. Hats off to them for stopping us, but we have to score. That was definitely one of the key moments. Those six points, possibly seven, would have helped at the end.”

“We went to the running quarterback because the thing is, we don’t have anyone to throw the ball anyway,” said Marshall. 

The Dons got into the scoring action on their third drive of the game, highlighted by a 23-yard run from Adhikari on third and 14 and the power of junior running back Josiah Ungos, who barreled his way 16 yards for the score, getting help from his offensive linemen. On Gahr’s next play, which began at the 20-yard line, Williams was intercepted by senior Diego Martinez and Cerritos parlayed that into a four-yard run from Park with 2:01 left in the half. The two-point conversion from Adhikari was stopped by senior free safety Gabriel Mariscal and the half ended in a 13-13 tie.

“We knew they had a bunch of guys going both ways, so our plan was to go tempo to get them tired, and it worked,” said Franklin. “That’s the only way we were going to get back in the game. However, in the second half, that’s where more errors occurred. The communication was the issue. I can’t put my finger on what it was, but I will call some and that’s not what I’ll always see executed.”

Gahr owned nearly every offensive advantage in the first half, holding the ball for 72 more seconds, gaining 29 more yards and running three more plays. But it would be a completely different story in the second half, especially in the third quarter when Cerritos began the half at its own 30-yard line, was moved back after one play on a face mask infraction, then ran off 17 more plays. The drive ended with Adhikari scoring from a yard out with 3:46 left in the stanza. 

“We have a lot of guys going both ways again,” said Marshall. “I think we were a little more winded when we have these emotional games, because this was the first time I’ve seen Kalen tired, and we didn’t give him the ball [that much]. I think they were exhausted from the stress.” 

The Gladiators would use the rest the of the quarter, and the first 1:47 of the fourth quarter when Montgomery tied the game with a one-yard touchdown run. After that, Gahr ran just one play the rest of the game, which was Slaughter’s game-winning score.

“I knew either I had to take a step up and make a big play or I had to help Kalen make a play himself,” said Slaughter of the fourth quarter. “That interception was a turning point in the game. It helped raise our level of intensity, concentration, and execution.”

“That was absolutely a backbreaker,” said Franklin of the interception. “From my angle, I can honestly say I thought we had [Slaughter] tackled. I would love to see that on film and see what happened. But I thought we had him.”

Marshall admitted that the large gap in the rivalry that’s nearly as long as the distance between the schools is beginning to close, based off last season’s Cerritos win and the seven-point decision last Friday. From 2001-2004, Cerritos had defeated Gahr by scores of 45-20, 34-28, 35-14 and 6-0. In fact, since the rivalry began in 1972, the teams have met 46 times with the series tied 23-23. The teams did not meet in 1975, or from 2018-2021 and no score was available in 1981. But, of the 46 recorded games, 13 have been decided by one possession.

“They’re a good football team,” said Marshall. “These are not the old days. One, we’re probably not as good as we were back then and then they’re much better. They’re well-coached, they tackle and they’re physical. That’s a football team, without a doubt.”

Adhikari led Cerritos with 119 yards on 21 carries while Park had 60 yards on 17 rushes and Ungos another 46 yards on nine touches. Defensively, senior linebackers Jeremiah Bagaygay and Gabe Gaudi each had five tackles while sophomore linebacker Tyler Ky added another four.

Cerritos kicks off 605 League action on Oct. 12 with a home game against up and coming John Glenn High, behind first-year head coach Elijhaa Penny, who has enjoyed his first head coaching job since retiring from the National Football League. The Eagles, who were off last Friday, have won three straight games, outscoring those opponents 141-24. Last time out, they posted a 31-10 decision over Godinez Fundamental High. 

The Eagles, like their crosstown rivals at Norwalk High, run the double wing offense, led by senior running back Tuiono Tuifua, who has rushed for 1,082 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. Complementing him is sophomore running back Terry Henderson, who has 550 yards and five touchdowns. As a team, Glenn is averaging nearly 300 yards a game on the ground. Glenn has also passed for 1,331 yards and a dozen touchdowns making this season’s team one of the most prolific Glenn squads in the program’s history. On a side note, the five wins equals the combined output from the last two seasons and the Eagles have not won more than six games in any season in over two and a half decades.

“It’s going to be another physical game,” said Franklin. “They run a double wing; they just run the ball, run the ball, bleed the clock, run the ball. It’s going to be a quick game. We’re going to have to protect the ball just like they do.”

Junior linebacker Isaiah Portillo led Gahr’s defense with nine tackles, followed by Mariscal (six), Montgomery (five and a half), sophomore lineman Marc Saldana (four and a half) and senior lineman Myles Merchant (four) as the Gladiators jump back into Mid-Cities League action where they visit Firebaugh High on Friday. 

Gahr lost to Bellflower High 44-21 on Sept. 29 in what was probably the de-facto league championship game. The Falcons enter the contest at 3-5 overall but have been blown out in two league games already, including last Friday’s 45-0 whitewash to Bellflower. The Gladiators should be able to run through Firebaugh’s defense, which has allowed at least 37 points in all five losses while scoring 32 points in those setbacks. The combined record of the opponents Firebaugh has defeated is 2-19 and last season, Gahr defeated Firebaugh 49-0.

“That’s just a game where I think we have to just go out and play, and play hard; not make any silly mistakes,” said Marshall. “It’s kind of where we were last year. Even though we didn’t win the Cerritos game [last year], I thought we played better football, then we played well against Firebaugh. Hopefully we’ll start that roll again.

“Crean [Lutheran] and Bellflower were good, without a doubt,” he continued. “Bellflower was a lot better than I thought. Those are good football teams, and it would be nice, hopefully, to go and just execute and win a football game because these last three football games have been stressful, physically.”