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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
It’s never too early to look ahead to the future and the Norwalk High football team showed Cerritos High that it can go beyond its regular players to get the job done. The visiting Lancers used nine different ball carriers to combine for 385 yards on 44 touches in a 69-6 rout over the Dons last Thursday night at Hanford Rants Stadium.
It was the widest margin of victory by Norwalk over Cerritos in a Suburban League game and the third time the Lancers have scored at least 60 points against the Dons in the past 20 seasons. The win was the 13th straight over Cerritos and final time as Suburban League foes.
“What we got was what we’ve been waiting on all this time,” said Norwalk head coach Otis Harrison. “I think the mindset is probably the most fascinating thing on Earth because in my own opinion, I thought we were better than the teams we just got beat by the last two weeks. But, it’s all about wins and losses and we didn’t win those games.
“I just wanted to come out and see us not spot people 14 points and [us] just come out and execute,” he continued. “The main thing is you need to want to have fun out there. You got to want to play and I try to get the guys to love the game.”
Freshman running back Warren Stevens-Tayou led everyone with 93 yards on 12 carries and scored twice while sophomore running back Daniel Onopa picked up 76 yards on eight carries and found the end zone once as the Lancers continued to be one of the league’s best, if not the best rushing team.
Norwalk scored on all seven first half possessions and by halftime, already had 230 yards on the ground. Stevens-Tayou scored on runs of five and one respectively in the opening quarter and came after senior Billy Moore scored on the fourth play of Norwalk’s opening possession. The first quarter scoring ended with senior running back Andrew Navarro adding a 39-yard touchdown run.
Norwalk (6-3 overall, 3-2 in league) would get a one-yard scoring run from senior running back Brandon Barrett nearly midway through the second quarter and after a Navarro recovered a fumble, junior wide receiver Tyrese Allen caught a 27-yard score from junior quarterback Brionne Penny.
“Pick one, pick a biggest problem,” said Cerritos head coach Barry Thomas. “We also didn’t stop the power. Even when they’re not throwing the football anymore, we just can’t stop the most basic play in football. That’s a big problem.”
As if it couldn’t get worse for the Dons (1-7, 0-4) senior safety Joseph Rodriguez returned an interception 53 yards for a touchdown two plays after Allen’s touchdown and Onopa went in from two yards out with 24 seconds left in the half for a 55-0 lead.
“They have a fire and a passion for playing football,” Harrison said of his running backs. “They’re just lunch pail guys. You never hear a word out of them. Everyone in our program knows that if you’re playing hard and you’re practicing well, you’re going to get a chance to play.
“You have to be able to run the ball to be successful and play some good defense,” he continued. “And after that, I’m not too concerned with anything else.”
Allen scored his second touchdown of the game, a 30-yard run in the third quarter with the running clock already in use, and senior running back Etieni Valele closed out Norwalk’s scoring barrage with a three-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
Moore would pick up 63 yards on nine carries while Navarro added another 56 yards on five touches. Penny would complete four passes in five attempts for 91 yards to four different targets.
“Hat’s off to what they’re doing over there,” Thomas said. “They block well. Then you look at our side and we don’t block well. You can put anybody in the backfield and get results when you’re blocking well, not to take anything away from their backs. But when you have a guard coming clean and the first person he sees is a safety, that’s a problem.
“They look good on film and they run the ball well,” he continued. “They have talented backs. But we helped them out by not engaging in any of their lead blockers. That’s a major issue.”
As for Cerritos, it couldn’t get anything going in the first half. The Dons failed to get a first down on eight first half possessions and got as far as its own 42-yard line. Senior Ryder Eddy recovered an onside kick to begin the second half, marking the first time it had reached Norwalk territory. It’s initial first down came on the second possession of the half and the lone score came on the last play of the game when sophomore quarterback Stacy King barely reached the near pylon following a 14-yard run on fourth down.
“Stacy is a super, talented kid,” Thomas said. “He’s the future of the program; he’s only a sophomore. We’ll see how he develops. The sky’s the limit for him.”
“I was probably a little more disappointed that some starters got back in the game because I really don’t think like that,” Harrison said of not preserving the shutout. “We’ve been coaching everyone all year and at some point, guys have to learn and grow.”
Junior running back Tye Anderson led the Dons with 52 yards on 11 carries while King, in backup duties, added another 46 yards on four carries. Senior starting quarterback Colby Nielsen completed six of 17 passes for 40 yards. Senior Ryder Eddy led the defense with half a dozen tackles as the Dons will visit Artesia High tonight, hoping to end a four-game slide in which they have allowed at least 56 points in each of those losses. Cerritos is also hoping to avoid its second straight winless league season.
“We’re definitely better than that,” Thomas said. “Last year I thought, okay [in 2017], we’re going to have the size to move the ball up front. And I’m at a loss for words to figure out why we’re not moving people. The things we do at nauseum is power-stop power, and we have yet to do it. That’s our staple, is stopping power and we can’t do it. I don’t know how many more hours I can put in on Saturday. What’s funny is, we did a hell of a job of it in our scrimmage and we haven’t done it since.”
The Lancers, who are being considered, but not quite in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 9 top 10 poll, will enjoy a week off before hosting Artesia on Nov. 3 in the final regular season game. How will Harrison spend the bye week?
“Well, with the weather, we’re going to be like everybody else trying to stay cool, apparently,” Harrison chuckled. “But it’s a great opportunity for us to get a little rest. I try to teach these guys how to work hard and I also try to teach them how to rest hard.”