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605 LEAGUE FOOTBALL – Defense carries Cerritos to another shutout win over John Glenn in 605 League opener

Cerritos High junior running back Josiah Ungos powers through on one of his six carries against John Glenn High last Thursday night. Ungos gained 33 yards on the night as the host Dons shutout the Eagles 38-0 in the 605 League opener. PHOTO BY JOSIE QUIBRANTAR.

October 17, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

The offensive numbers were somewhat lethargic for Cerritos High and John Glenn High last Thursday night in the 605 League opener at Dr. Hanford Rants Stadium. The stat sheet will show the visiting Eagles owned the time of possession and had a few more offensive plays, but five costly turnovers were the difference in what turned out to be a whitewash after a close game in the first half. 

Cerritos, the two-time defending league champions which led 10-0 at the half, scored on the first possession of the second half, then recovered a fumble that led to a quick score and just like that the Dons were up 24-0 and on their way to a 38-0 victory. It was the fourth straight win over Glenn, two coming by way of a shutout, and comes after the Eagles had won the previous four games in the series.

This game was more about defense and special teams, especially if you were wearing black, gray, and red as the teams struggled offensively. Although the Dons fumbled on their second drive, muffed a punt, and had a field goal blocked, the Eagles had four fumbles, an interception and a punt blocked.

“I can’t understand [it],” said Cerritos first-year head coach Demel Franklin of the sloppiness. “It was weird, but we were able to keep our composure. Our defense held them to a shutout, and we were able to get our legs up from under us and get the win.”

The turning point came after senior Moises Mendoza booted a 35-yard field goal three minutes into the second quarter, making it 10-0. Glenn would get to the four-yard line and thought it had a touchdown when senior running back Tuiono Tuifua scored from that distance. But a holding penalty nullified the score and pushed the ball back to the 14-yard line. Then on fourth and goal from the eight, a potential touchdown throw from junior quarterback Raymond Acosta to junior wide receiver Jacob Ramirez was called back because of a pass interference call. One play later, the drive ended on an incomplete pass.

After Glenn was held on downs following a lengthy 5:17 drive to begin the game, the hosts opened the scoring by going 41 yards on seven plays, taking over three and a half minutes off the clock which ended when junior running back Nathaniel Crawford went in from a yard out. The Eagles would fumble on the ensuing kickoff, but two plays later, Glenn junior linebacker Dylan Arrington recovered a fumble at the Glenn 18-yard line. 

However, on the second play of the second quarter, the Eagles (5-3, 0-1) saw a punt blocked by junior linebacker Devyn Chantha and the miscue led to Mendoza’s field goal. The Eagles would have another opportunity to score late in the half when Ramirez recovered a fumble when Cerritos couldn’t make a reception on Glenn’s second punt. But a sack for a 15-yard loss by Cerritos senior linebacker Jeremiah Bagaygay with 21 seconds left in the half kept the score at 10-0.

Cerritos had just 73 yards in the first half while Glenn picked up 45 yards, and the way the offenses were moving, the game would be put away nearly midway through the third quarter when the Dons took the second half kickoff and went 78 yards on seven plays, all runs, with Crawford scoring from seven yards out.

“That was kind of the gameplan,” said Franklin of the second touchdown. “At halftime, my coaches were like, ‘coach, run the ball. I know you want to throw it. Let’s get some more points, then we’ll let you throw the ball’. I listen to my staff; they know what’s best and they guide us in the right direction.”

When the Eagles got the ball, it took five plays before Cerritos sophomore linebacker Bailey Crawford recovered a fumble and two plays into the ensuing drive, senior running back Josh Park scored from a yard out with 2:37 left in the stanza. If the turnover wasn’t bad enough for Glenn, which ran nine plays and gained three yards in the quarter, the final stanza began with Cerritos senior Diego Martinez intercepting Acosta. 

The Dons (3-5, 1-0) would be held at the 20-yard line where Mendoza would have a 37-yard field goal attempt blocked. But, as the ball was travelling back to the endzone, Glenn couldn’t find a handle on the pigskin and senior lineman Sam Marcroft pounced on the ball for a touchdown. It would be another fumble on Glenn’s next possession that would turn into a 47-yard recovery for a score by Park to end the scoring.

The only offense from Glenn came from Tuifua, the league’s second leading rusher at 1,137 yards and 13 touchdowns, who picked up 75 yards on 11 carries while the defensive leader was Ramirez (six and a half tackles) as the Eagles did not cross midfield until the final seconds of the game when they reached the 15-yard line. 

“I gave [our defense] a little tongue lashing after the last game,” said Franklin. “I felt after the Gahr game, we needed to be a little tougher. So, we worked our butts off preparing for that double wing, which is a very tough offense. We were just fortunate that the ball bounced our way tonight.

“We were in a little bit of a slump for two games,” he continued. “We weren’t holding [Chino High and Gahr] what we thought we could hold them to. And then we figured it out. The kids came out and played amazing. I’m so proud of my defense.”

For the Dons, Park rushed eight times for 35 yards while junior running back Josiah Ungos gained 33 yards on six touches. Sophomore quarterback Justin Sagun completed four of eight passes for 67 yards, all going to junior wide receiver Ruben Castro. On top of that, for the first time all season, a Cerritos quarterback did not throw an interception. Senior linebacker Gabe Gaudi had three and a half tackles while Nathaniel Crawford added three tackles. 

“This [win] was enormous just because we came off three losses, but also…I was nervous,” said Franklin. “I didn’t know what Coach [Elijhaa] Penny was going to do. I know he has experience with the NFL and all that. So, we were just excited to get a chance to compete against those guys.”

With two of the four league teams advancing to the CIF-Southern Section playoffs, Glenn would need to defeat Pioneer High on Thursday to keep any postseason dream alive. The Titans lost to Artesia High 37-19 last Thursday and are the least scoring team in the league with 110 points. Pioneer is on a four-game losing streak and have not scored more than 21 points in any game, which bodes very well for Glenn.

Despite the loss to Cerritos, Glenn is still enjoying one of the program’s better seasons in recent years with a 5-3 mark. The Eagles, who had won three straight in the series against Pioneer before last season’s 51-6 loss, have scored 255 points this season and have held four opponents to 10 points or fewer. 

When Cerritos visits Artesia on Thursday, the winner will clinch no worse than a tie for the league title. And while the Pioneers have lost three consecutive games to Cerritos, they still have dominated the series since 1998, winning 15 of the past 25 meetings.  The Dons will have their hands full with the highest scoring team in the league, also at 255 points, as they will face junior quarterback Charlie Lopez, who is the league’s leading rusher with 1,228 yards and 16 touchdowns. As a team, the Pioneers have rushed for 2,571 yards and 31 touchdowns while the Dons have gained close to 1,300 yards on the ground.

“I got a chance to see them earlier in the season,” said Franklin. “They have a great rushing attack. That quarterback…he runs and runs and runs some more. He can throw it as well, but he wants to run. So, we have to make sure to contain him; keep that zero on the board as much as possible.”