Football: Ferocious defense leads Falcons to bowl win

Football caps off season with bowl win
Football caps off season with bowl win

Entering the Western State Bowl Game on Saturday night, the Cerritos College football team had a total of 26 quarterback sacks on the year. By the end of their dominant 32-14 performance against San Diego Mesa College, the Falcons they had 40 sacks on the year, as they posted a school-record 14 in the game. The postseason win was the third in a row for Cerritos (6-5), who limited the host Olympians (7-4) to minus-18 yards on the ground. The defense also picked off a season-high four passes.

It was a tight defensive battle through the first half, as each team got on the board once. Cerritos opened the scoring midway through the second quarter when freshman quarterback Jordan Simpson (Gahr HS) completed a 30-yard strike to freshman wide receiver Luca Caldarella (Valley Christian HS) in the back of the end zone. The Falcons converted the two-point conversion when freshman quarterback/holder Cade McConnell (Los Alamitos HS) hit freshman tight end Jacob Leija (La Serna HS) in the end zone.

In the final minute of the first half, the Olympians got on the board, as they capped a nine-play, 91-yard drive on a 26-yard scoring strike.

Luca Caldarella was voted the game's MVP Looking to make an immediate impact in the second half, McConnell dropped a perfect pass into the streaking hands of Caldarella on the third play for a 64-yard touchdown. Caldarella (pictured, left), who was voted the game's Most Valuable Player, caught three passes for 103 yards with all three going for touchdowns.

The defensive pressure from the Falcons started on the first San Diego Mesa drive in the second half. On the second play, sophomore Keith Conley, Jr. (Cathedral HS/El Camino College) recorded a sack, which led the the Olympians punting the ball away. Cerritos did drive into SD Mesa territory, but missed their second field goal of the game. But that didn't affect the defense, with sophomore Michael-Allen Reddy (Los Alamitos HS) recording a sack on the next drive, which forced another punt.

McConnell then drove the team 43 yards to the Olympian nine-yard line when sophomore wide receiver Bailey Torres (Valley Christian HS) pulled in a beautiful over the shoulder catch with a defender hanging on him. Caldarella pulled in his third touchdown pass on the next play, which put the Falcons up, 25-14.

The Olympians made a change at quarterback, and the Falcon defense seemed to come to life against Quincy Welch, who was not very mobile in the pocket. On the first drive, Welch was sacked three times, the third coming on a fourth-and-12 play by sophomores Victor Clanton (Serra HS) and Logan Applewhite (Cathedral HS).

After freshman Davon Booth (El Monte HS) turned in the most impressive run of the night, which saw him scramble and cross the field for a 32-yard touchdown, it was all Cerritos defense, as Reddy picked off Welch on the next drive, while Applewhite recorded another sack the next time San Diego Mesa had the ball.

Joshua Palu was named the Player of the Game Twice on the ensuing drive for the Olympians, Welch was dropped for loss by sacks, with the Falcons taking him down two more times on their next drive after Simpson was picked off. Sophomore Malik Skiffer (Mayfair HS) and freshman Jonathan Fuamatu (St. Paul HS) recorded sacks on consecutive plays, while Player of the Game Joshua Palu (Lakewood HS/Los Angeles Harbor College) (pictured, right) reached up and intercepted Welch on the next play to cap off the game.

Skiffer (four tackles) led the team with three sacks, while Clanton (seven tackles) and Applewhite (four tackles) each had two, with seven other players contributing to the single-game school record. Sophomore Cody Coleman (Narbonne HS/Northern Arizona HS) led the defense with eight tackles, while Cameron Minor (Mayfair HS) had six stops and an interception.

Offensively, McConnell went 7-for-7 for 129 yards and two touchdowns, while Simpson completed 4-of-9 passes for 90 yards. In addition to Caldarella, Torres pulled in four pases for 99 yards, with Booth finishing with 115 yards on the ground on 14 carries.