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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Cerritos High football moving on to Southern California Regionals

The Cerritos High football team celebrates the program’s first CIF-Southern Section divisional championship in the sport after rallying for a 19-13 overtime victory over Yucca Valley High last Saturday night. The Dons are Division 12 champions. PHOTO BY LOREN KOPFF.

November 29, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Last season, Valley Christian High’s football team fell to Lancaster High 44-42 in the CIF-Southern Section Division 12 championship game. This season, in the same division, Cerritos High claimed the title, getting past Yucca Valley High 19-13 in overtime last Saturday night at Atkins Stadium on the Artesia High campus.

Now, the Dons move on to the CIF State Southern California Division 6-AA Regional finals where it will host Wasco High on Friday at Artesia. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m. The winner will face the winner from the Northern California Regional finals, either Palo Alto High or St. Vincent de Paul High the following week for the state championship.

“It started hitting me yesterday and I started having anxiety [attacks],” said Cerritos first-year head coach Demel Franklin following the win over Yucca Valley. “I went to the cemetery to visit [former Cerritos offensive line coach Webster] Peters, who we lost. We had a conversation, and I knew he was with us. So, he helped calm me down. I saw him again today. It started hitting me yesterday; I’m not going to lie. I was nervous.”

Cerritos, which has won nine games for the first time since 2001 when that team went 9-2 and advanced to the quarterfinals, enters the contest on the program’s hottest streak in over 25 seasons with six straight victories. During that stretch, the Dons have been winning with stellar performances from both sides of the ball.

The three-time defending 605 League champions have outscored their opponents 260-104 during the winning streak. Offensively, Cerritos is led by senior running back Josh Park (692 yards on 107 carries and 13 touchdowns) and juniors Dikshanta Adhikari (151 rushes, 807 yards, five touchdowns) and Josiah Ungos (117 carries, 526 yards, four touchdowns). 

Spreading the wealth around also applies to the passing game where senior quarterback Julian Morales and sophomore Justin Sagun have combined to throw for 1,121 yards and 13 touchdowns. Of those numbers, Adhikari, Park and junior John Lim have combined for 48 receptions, 479 yards and half a dozen touchdowns. Sagun has also picked up another 313 yards on the ground with two more touchdowns. Cerritos has gained 4,703 all-purpose yards and those six players have combined for nearly 3,500 of those yards.

On the defensive side, junior linebacker Nathaniel Crawford is the leader of the pack with 117 tackles, but not far behind is sophomore linebacker Tyler Ky with 104 tackles. Other defensive stars are senior linebackers Jeremiah Bagaygay and Gabe Gaudi (90 tackles each) and sophomore linebackers Bailey Crawford (57 tackles) and Jacob Hoosac (68 tackles). Bagaygay also has six sacks.

Wasco, a small town 24 miles northwest of Bakersfield, won the CIF Central Section Division V crown by defeating Bishop Union High 42-41. The Tigers have won three straight games and six of their last seven after beginning the season alternating wins and losses through their first four outings. Wasco won the Division IV championship in 2012, defeating Bakersfield Christian 29-22, capping off a 13-0 season. The previous season, Wasco lost to Washington Union 55-12 in the Division IV finals.

The Tigers are not as high scoring as the Dons, just six points shy of 300. In fact, they have given up more than they have scored. Wasco has had three games in which it has eclipsed 35 points but has yielded at least 25 points half a dozen times.

Cerritos’ run defense will be put to the test again as the Tigers have rushed for over 3,000 yards and the Dons will be keying in on No. 4, Noah Lopez, who has rushed for 1,171 yards and scored 15 touchdowns and No. 21, Michael Dominguez, who has gained 943 yards with 10 touchdowns. Wasco doesn’t pass much as David Manzo has completed 18 of 39 yards for 390 yards. 

Prediction: Cerritos 35, Wasco 21

Last week’s predictions: 1-0

Season to date: 53-18


Artesia High began the season with three straight wins, but after a 74-63 loss to Arlington High in the third place game of Artesia’s 12th Annual Winter Classic, the Pioneers are 4-2 as they host Bravo Medical Magnet on Friday. 

Cerritos picked up a 58-51 win over La Serna High this past Monday at Crypto.com Arena, evening its record to 2-2. The Dons will host Chaparral High on Friday and Sunny Hills High on Tuesday before going to Kennedy High on Thursday.

After three straight wins in its own tournament to begin the season, Gahr High fell to Maranatha High 64-40 last Saturday in the championship game. The Gladiators will face St. John Bosco High on Monday in the opening game of the St. John Bosco Winter Classic.

Up and coming John Glenn High is 3-2 after knocking off Legacy Prep 35-25 this past Tuesday. The Eagles will host EF Academy, a freelance team in its first season, on Friday and go to Samueli Academy on Wednesday.

The hottest team around remains La Mirada High, which has won its first seven games, including the first five in the Rumble for Rosecrans Ave. Tournament. The Matadores, who defeated Sonora High 89-60 last Saturday, open play in the 72nd Ryse Williams Pac Shores Showcase against Harvard-Westlake High this past Tuesday and faced Santa Margarita High on Nov. 30.

Norwalk High fell to Irvine High 60-53 this past Monday in the first round of the Garden Grove Tournament, which wraps up on Saturday. The Lancers will then go to Segerstrom High on Wednesday.

V.C. also competed in the Rumble for Rosecrans Tournament, going 2-3, then lost to Marina High 73-45 on Nov. 22. The Defenders, just like La Mirada, is another team in the Ryse Williams Pac Shores Showcase where they opened with St. Anthony High this past Wednesday and will tussle with Redondo Union High on Friday and Oakwood High on Saturday. 

Whitney High bounced back from its first loss of the season to defeat Rancho Alamitos High 64-50 this past Tuesday in the Garden Grove Tournament. The Wildcats, who improved to 4-1, will be in the Calvary Chapel Downey High Grizzly Classic, beginning on Monday.


Artesia picked up its first win after two starting the season with two losses with a 44-35 victory over The Webb Schools this past Monday in the Grizzly Classic. The Pioneers had pool play games against Bethel Baptist High and St. Joseph High and will host their own tournament beginning on Tuesday.

Cerritos fell to Diamond Bar High 63-62 in overtime in the championship game of the Corona Del Mar Tournament last Saturday. The Dons (3-1) will host Santa Margarita on Monday and go to Peninsula High on Wednesday.

Gahr has won its first four games, allowing 75 points in those games and hosted Narbonne High this past Wednesday before going to Bellflower High the next day. Gahr will visit Dymally High on Monday.

Glenn began the week at 2-3 and hosted Mountain View High this past Tuesday. The Eagles will entertain Santa Ana Valley High on Friday before co-hosting their annual tournament with Norwalk next week.

La Mirada began the Vernie Ford Classic, hosted by Fullerton High, this past Monday by facing East College Prep and Western Christian High two days later. The Matadores will play Estancia High on Friday and wrap up the tournament on Saturday before going to Canyon High on Tuesday.

Norwalk ended a five-game losing streak with a 44-39 win over Cabrillo High this past Monday and followed that with road games against Costa Mesa High this past Tuesday, Santa Fe High on Nov. 30, and Montebello High on Friday. The Lancers will open their co-hosted tournament on Monday against Workman High and will face Whitney on Tuesday.

V.C. began its own tournament with a 53-42 loss to Palos Verdes High this past Monday but defeated El Segundo High 44-20 the next night. The tournament ends on Saturday and the Defenders will then host San Gabriel Academy on Wednesday.

Whitney began the week winning its first three games of the season as it hosted Northwood High this past Tuesday. The Wildcats visited Crean Lutheran High on Nov. 30 before participating in the Glenn/Norwalk Tournament.