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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Girls volleyball playoffs done for area teams while rest of the fall sports playoffs underway

November 1, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

The girls volleyball season may be over for the six area teams who made it to the CIF-Southern Section playoffs, but the postseason for girls tennis and boys water polo began this past Monday and the football playoffs begin on Friday. Here’s a look at what’s on tap.


Temecula Prep (5-5, 4-2 in the Manzanita League) @ #1 Artesia High (6-4, 2-1 in the 605 League)-An up and down season for Artesia, which was hit early on with an injury to one of its top senior wide receivers, ended with the Pioneers grabbing the top seed in the division. Still a young team, there were many questions concerning how the Pioneers would fare this season, especially with a new head coach, Connor Crook, though he was at Artesia’s lower levels in the past, and a pair of unproven quarterbacks at the varsity level.

But Artesia found a way to power through and finish in second place in league after its 28-20 win over John Glenn High last Thursday. This is the first time school history the Pioneers have been the top seed in any division for football. In 2018 when Artesia went to the Division 12 finals as the third-seeded team, it knocked off second-seeded Laguna Beach High 48-6 in the semifinals before falling to No. 1 Linfield Christian 70-32 in the finals. Crook said he didn’t initially know where his team would be seeded after defeating Glenn or even how results of other games last Friday would turn out.

“On Saturday, we had a coach, Matt Soriano. [who] was going through all the rankings and seeing who we could potentially match up with and where we would fall,” said Crook. “We were either going to end up at the bottom of [Division] 13 or at the top of 14. So, we had some idea about that. But it was a pleasant surprise when we got the brackets this [past Sunday] morning.”

When healthy, Artesia is dangerous on the ground as junior quarterback Charlie Lopez has rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and scored 17 times. When not rushing, he has thrown for just under 300 yards. His sidekick partner on the ground is sophomore running back Josue Flores, who has gained 729 yards and found the end zone eight times. Junior running back Julius Padilla has come on strong lately and almost has 300 yards while scoring five touchdowns.

Junior Ahkil Sampson has caught 15 passes for 179 yards and a score and is the top wide receiver. But look for others to catch a pass here and there, like senior wide receivers Joshua Campbell and Jordan McGruder.

When everything is clicking, the Pioneers can score; they have reached at least 35 points five times and at least 20 points two other times. In three of their four losses, they combined for 19 points.

Senior lineman and linebacker Chase Adams leads the Pioneers with 52 tackles and has three sacks while Padilla is next with 42 tackles. Sophomore tackle Maximus Garcia is solid as well with 33 tackles and four sacks while senior cornerback Pablo Cruz and Campbell have four and three interceptions respectively. In seven of the 10 games, Artesia has allowed 20 points or fewer and have one shutout on its resume.

“We run the ball a lot, so continuing to run the ball and finding their weak spots on the defense…if we want to run a weak or strong and figuring out which way to go with it,” said Crook on the keys to success in the game. “

The Patriots, who finished in third place in the Manzanita League, played a lot of their games against teams from the Inland Empire, two from San Diego County and one from Yermo, just north of Barstow and the combined record of their opponents is 47-44.

“I think it can [a challenge], because there could be some teams that you’re not familiar with and you don’t know where their skill level is,” said Crook of facing the unknown. “To be honest, I wasn’t really familiar with Temecula Prep before. But you start looking at their schedule and you see some of the teams that they play, and then you look at those teams’ schedules and you kind of figure out where their skill level lies.”

Temecula Prep has gained nearly 2,500 yards on offense and to put that in comparison, Artesia’s rushing attack alone has amassed over 3,000 yards. Aidan Fritts is Temecula Prep’s top contributor, rushing for 1,203 yards and scoring seven touchdowns. He also leads the Patriots with 70 tackles. Quarterback Vince Warren has completed close to 60 percent of his passes for 629 yards and 11 touchdowns, but on defense, has intercepted opposing quarterbacks four times. One thing to note: Temecula Prep has scored over 100 points fewer than the Pioneers and one of their victories was a forfeit over Nuview Bridge. 

“He’s a tough, little runner just by watching him on film,” said Crook of Fritts. “He runs around and plays hard. So, [Fritts] is definitely their guy on both sides of the ball. We were talking about him all morning figuring out ways to stop him on both sides of the ball.”

If Artesia comes away with a win, it will travel to either Rancho Alamitos High or Santa Rosa Academy for one of four quarterfinal games. The Pioneers have gotten past the first round six times, but just once since 1995.

Prediction: Artesia 38, Temecula Prep 17


Cerritos High (5-5, 3-0 in the 605 League) @ #4 Fillmore High (7-3, 4-0 in the Citrus Coast League)-This will be a tough contest for the three-time defending league champions who will make the two-plus hour drive to Fillmore. The Dons ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak which came after a three-game losing streak, and over the past five games, Cerritos outscored its opponents 144-76. It whitewashed Pioneer High 58-0 last Friday to end the regular season at 5-5 for the third straight season.

“Initially, I was thinking we would be a high seed in [Division] 13, possibly a low seed in 12,” said Cerritos first-year head coach Demel Franklin. “There was no way they were going to put us in 14, especially after seeing who had done what in the division. I’m accepting of being in Division 12.

“Briefly, I looked at the film [on Fillmore] and I’ve seen what they do and it’s going to be a challenge,” he later said. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge. We have to play a great game to come out victorious.”

Last season, the Dons were clipped by Arlington High 22-20 after holding a 13-0 lead for most of the first half. In 2021, Cerritos was on the short end of a 42-41 affair to Colton High. Both playoff losses were at home and the Dons have not won a first round game since 2001. 

Cerritos has struggled all season with its quarterbacks, senior Julian Morales and sophomore Justin Sagun. Both have combined to complete 53 percent of their passes and throw for 870 yards with nine touchdowns. But the two have been picked off 14 times. The strength of the offense lies in the rushing department where junior Dikshanta Adhikari (429 yards, four touchdowns), junior Josiah Ungos (385 yards, three touchdowns), senior Josh Park (370 yards, six touchdowns) and Sagun (216 yards) are the key players for a team that has gained 1,650 yards. Junior wide receiver Ruben Castro is the top target of either Morales or Sagun, catching 39 passes for 507 yards and scoring five touchdowns. Adhikari has also caught 19 passes for 117 yards.

“The number one thing we have to do is protect the football,” said Franklin. “[Last week] was the second game in a row we had zero turnovers, and that’s huge. If we protect the football and block up front, hey, anything is possible.” 

Defensively, the players to focus on will be sophomore linebacker Tyler Ky (78 tackles), junior linebacker Nathaniel Crawford (70 tackles) and senior linebackers Jeremiah Bagaygay (66 tackles, four sacks) and Gabe Gaudi (60 tackles). 

Fillmore enters the game on a six-game winning streak that could have been seven as its last loss was on Sept. 8 against Burbank High in a 42-41 outcome in which it had a 35-34 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Flashes are a scoring machine, averaging nearly 31 points a game and only twice have they been held to under that average.

While Fillmore has more yards on the ground than through the air, quarterback David Jimenez has passed for over 1,300 yards with 19 touchdowns while the leading ground gainer is Josiah Cruz (956 yards, eight touchdowns).

“A balanced attack definitely gives you a much harder task because you just can’t load up with [defensive backs] and stop the pass or just load the box and stop the run,” said Franklin. 

If Cerritos pulls off the upset, it either host Victor Valley High or travel to Western Christian High for the quarterfinals. Both teams were 6-4 in the regular season and were both at-large representatives from their respective leagues.

Prediction: Fillmore 31, Cerritos 28


Gahr High (7-3, 3-1 in the Mid-Cities League) @ #1 Quartz Hill High (7-3, 6-1 in the Golden League)-After missing the playoffs last season despite ending in a three-way tie for the top spot in the Mid-Cities League, Gahr is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2019. The seven wins are the most since 2017 since that team also went 7-3 before splitting a pair of playoff games. The Gladiators enter the playoffs on a four-game winning streak and also had a three-game winning streak the first half of September.

Last Friday, Gahr blasted Lynwood High 38-0 and this season has had nine games in which it has scored at least 21 points, six games of at least 32 points and four games of over 40 points. A lot of the offense can be attributed to the rushing of senior running back Kalen Montgomery, who is one of the top running backs in the area with 1,339 yards and 25 touchdowns. The only other Gahr running back to reach triple digits is junior Markell Slaughter at 425 yards and four scores.

Senior Frank Williams and sophomore Roman Acosta have combined to throw for 716 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions with Slaughter the top receiver with 455 yards on 28 catches and five touchdowns. The defense has been solid the last three games, allowing only two fourth quarter touchdowns. However, in all three losses, the Gladiators have yielded at least 44 points.

Even though the Gladiators will be facing the top seed in the division, the Royals have scored fewer points than Gahr and were involved in a three-way tie with Highland High and Palmdale High for supremacy in the Golden League. 

Quartz Hill scored over 40 points three times, but against the bottom three in league. In the other seven games, it combined to score 125 points. Defensively, the Royals are solid and have held six opponents to single digits. The most they have given up was 36 points in a one-point overtime loss to Golden Valley High. 

Quartz Hill also loves to run the ball as Jaden Graham leads the way with 1,107 yards and 11 touchdowns while Dylan Merchant and Brody Larey have combined to throw for 1,178 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine touchdowns. Adonyss Currie is the top receiver with 36 catches, 638 yards and half a dozen touchdowns. 

If Gahr pulls off the upset, it will host Linfield Christian High or Hillcrest High in the quarterfinals.

Prediction: Gahr 35, Quartz Hill 32

Last week’s predictions: 5-1

Season to date: 49-14


A trio of area teams saw their seasons end last Wednesday in quarterfinal action. In Division 6, seventh-ranked Gahr (22-12) was swept by Glendale High, ranked second, 25-23, 25-15, 25-23. The 22 wins tops the 1988 squad that went 21-1 and won the 4A Division championship.

Norwalk High, which just completed its best season in program history, lost a thrilling 19-25, 25-21, 16-25, 25-23, 13-15 decision to seventh-ranked Loma Linda Academy. The Lancers, who were ranked second in Division 7 and tied Mayfair High for the top spot in the Mid-Cities League, wrapped up their season at 24-12. It’s the first time a Norwalk girls volleyball team reached the quarterfinals.

In Division 4 action, Valley Christian High (17-11) was swept by Capistrano Valley Christian High 25-15, 25-12, 25-8. The Defenders were the second place team out of the Olympic League.


The first round of the playoffs began on Wednesday and four area teams are participating, highlighted by Cerritos, the third-ranked team in Division 3. The 605 League champions (14-3-1) hosted Saugus High, the fourth place team out of the Foothill League which finished the regular season at 12-7.

In Division 2 action, Whitney High, the second place team from the 605 League at 11-4, visited #10 Crescenta Valley High, which was second in the Pacific League and had a mark of 14-4.

In Division 5 action, sixth-seeded V.C. hosted St. Joseph High, a wild card winner against NordHoff High this past Tuesday. The Defenders (10-6-1) claimed second place in the Olympic League while St. Joseph (10-4) finished third in the Del Rey League. In Division 6 play, La Mirada High (9-6-1), which took second in the Mid-Cities League, hosted Yeshiva High (8-3-1), the fourth place representative from the Liberty League.


The only area teams that are in the playoffs are high seeded teams in Division 6. La Mirada (11-7), the third place representative from the Gateway League, is ranked second and travelled to San Bernardino High on Wednesday. The Cardinals finished in second place in the Mountain Valley League. Cerritos (10-3), which placed second in the 605 League, is ranked fourth and hosted West Valley High, the third place representative out of the Mountain Pass League.


In the 605 League finals, held on Oct. 25 at Glenn, it was a sweep by the Cerritos boys and girls team, the second time that has happened in the same season for the program while members of the 605 League. Sophomore Dani Romero and freshman Kalana Nguyen took the first two spots with times of 19:33 and 19:56 respectively as the Dons garnered 26 team points. Oxford Academy picked up 46 points while Artesia and Whitney tied for third place with 84 points.

Fourth place went to Artesia freshman Genesis Flores, with a time of 20:22, followed by Cerritos junior Anna Field (20:51), Whitney freshman Katerine Low (20:59) and Cerritos freshman Daisy Lee (21:26). The top 12 runners out of the field of 38 were all underclassmen and there were six seniors. The last three Cerritos runners to cross the finish line, from 12th to 14th, were junior Zilian Liu (22:22), senior Akshara Adusumalli (22:50) and freshman Nandini Panchal (23:12). Glenn’s top runner was sophomore Melanie Patino, who finished in 11th place at 22:07.

It was a closer race for the boys where Cerritos was five points better than Whitney, 30-35. Oxford Academy came in third with 64 points, followed by Glenn (128), Pioneer (148) and Artesia (150). After Javier Luna of Oxford Academy won the race with a time of 16:22, the next 11 spots were held by either a Cerritos or Whitney runner.

Cerritos senior Elliot Kim got third with a time of 16:43, followed by a pair of teammates-sophomore Marlon Zarate (16:46) and senior Mattson Laraneta (16:53). Sixth place went to Whitney junior Moises Reyes (17:03) and one second behind him was junior Ethan Choi. The next five spots went to Cerritos senior Ben Giordano (17:09), Whitney junior Damian Moreno (17:32), Cerritos junior Howard Lee (17:25) and Whitney sophomores Brendan Perry (17:32) and Avery Chen (17:37).

Glenn junior Jacob Enriguez came in 14th with a time of 17:47 and junior Maverick Crawford was Artesia’s top runner with a time of 19:29.