Football: Defense & special teams assists offense in win

Falcons hoist up the Milk Can Trophy after their win over El Camino
Falcons hoist up the Milk Can Trophy after their win over El Camino

Needing to win against El Camino College in their final regular season game in order to keep their postseason bowl chances alive, the Cerritos College football team posted a 42-40 victory. The win also returned the Milk Can Trophy to Cerritos. The Falcons (6-4, 3-2) will find out on Sunday of they have been selected to play in a postseason bowl game, which will take place on November 23.

The teams traded leads in the first half, with Cerritos entering intermission with a 21-14 advantage after sophomore Brandon Jones (Heritage, VA HS) went up and pulled down a 27-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback TJ McMahon (Servite HS) with :09 seconds left. The Falcons took their first lead of the game early in the second quarter when sophomore wide receiver C.J. Parks (Mater Dei HS) went down and grabbed a low pass from McMahon, broke three tackles and raced down the sideline for a 73-yard touchdown.

Logan Applewhite strips the ball from El Camino QB Jerman Gotoy in the second half Cerritos opened the second half with freshman defensive end Logan Applewhite (Cathedral HS) stripping the ball from Warriors quarterback Jerman Gotoy, with freshman defensive end Elijah Dolphin (Long Beach Poly HS) recovering the ball at the El Camino 22-yard line. On a key 3rd-and-11 play, McMahon completed a 13-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Jovohn Tucker (St. John Bosco HS). Three plays later, freshman running back Hinckley Ropati (Downey HS) busted in from a yard out for a 28-14 lead.

The Warriors went on to score the next 10 points of the game to close the Falcon lead to 28-24 with 7:44 left in the third quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, sophomore Jacobi Hardy (Long Beach Wilson HS/El Camino College) returned the ball to the El Camino 41-yard line, with a pair of penalties moving the ball down to the 19-yard line. On the first play of the drive, freshman wide receiver Bailey Torres (Valley Christian HS) was open in the back of the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown, which was just his second reception of the season.

Making another run at the Falcons, El Camino scored the next nine points to draw to within 35-33 with 12:58 left in the game. The Warriors went for two on their touchdown and missed it, which left the Falcons leading by two points. That would turn into a nine-point lead, as Hardy returned the kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown anf a 42-33 lead and sophomore kicker Paul Rodriguez (Troy HS) booted the extra point. That touchdown would turn out to be the difference in the game, as the Warriors scored with 3:07 left in the game, which turned out to be the final score.

Taking over possession after the defense forced a punt, the Falcons were faced with a 4th-and-2 at their own 33-yard line and looked to punt the ball away. The the ball was snapped to 290-pound linebacker Etieni Valele (Norwalk HS) and he got the necessary two yards for a first down and helped run out the clock.

The defense was stellar at times and received nine tackles from both Applewhite (three tackles for loss) and sophomore defensive tackle Ikenna Ahumibe (Gahr HS), while freshman free safety Omari Okeke (Bellflower HS) posted eight stops. The Falcons finished with six tackles for loss and broke up four passes, with sophomore Daron Smith (St. Paul HS/Los Angeles Southwest College) posting three.

Although they only rushed for 135 yards as a team, the Falcons benefitted from the blocking of an offensive line that consisted of Jason Sitala (Bellflower HS), Noah Clasen (Kennedy HS), Sebastian Hernandez (La Mirada HS/Long Beach City College), Brandon Logan (Artesia HS), Sydney Solomon (Servite HS) and Christopher Alvarez (El Monte HS). They also kept McMahon safe long enough for him to complete 15-of-20 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Tucker (five catches, 83 yards), Hardy (four catches, 20 yards) and Parks (two catches, 81 yards), who didn't play in the second half, all made contributions.

Photos by Daryl Peterson