Football: Late touchdown and fumble recovery leads Falcons to win

Jacob Leija (88) celebrates his game-winning touchdown with Jaceon Doss (11)
Jacob Leija (88) celebrates his game-winning touchdown with Jaceon Doss (11)

Faced with 3rd and 10 at the Allan Hancock 39-yard line, Cerritos College sophomore quarterback Jordan Simpson (Gahr HS) found sophomore tight end Jacob Leija (La Serna HS) down the sideline for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown with 3:33 left in the fourth quarter. The Falcons went on to post a 22-17 win over the Bulldogs in their home opener at Falcon Stadium on Saturday night to improve to 3-0, while Hancock dropped to 2-1. It's the first 3-0 start for Cerritos since 2019, with the team traveling to Southwestern College next Saturday for a 6:00 p.m. start. The program hasn't opened a season 4-0 since 2010.

The Jaguars are coached by former Cerritos All-American nose guard Jr. Monarrez (1986-87), who went on to play at the University of Nebraska.

On their previous possession, Simpson connected with sophomore wide receiver Noah Sanchez (Villa Park HS) from 24 yards out for a touchdown with 10:25 left in the fourth quarter, but still trailed, 17-16 after missing the extra point. The defense stepped up and forced a punt on the Bulldogs next possession, while the offense used a 15-yard run by sophomore Davon Booth (El Monte HS) to move the ball to midfield as time was running out. A pair of incomplete passes set up the third down play, with Simpson finding Leija alone around the 10-yard line and he took the ball into the end zone untouched for the eventual game-winning touchdown. Cerritos went for two, but could not make it a seven-point game.

Allan Hancock took over possession at their own 15-yard line with 3:27 left on the clock. Three straight plays moved the ball to the Cerritos 49-yard line. A pair of incomplete passes from Esekielu Storer made it third-and-10. The Falcon defense stuffed running back John Allen, forcing a fourth down. Coming out of a timeout, Storer completed a nine-yard sideline pass to Jaleel Walker for a fresh set of downs. However, on the next play, the snap was fumbled and freshman defensive end Macc Manu (Lakewood HS) fell on the ball with 1:10 remaining and secured the victory for the Falcons.

It was a tight defensive game through the first half, with the Bulldogs taking a 10-7 lead into halftime after Ray Seabury converted a 32-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining.

Midway through the third quarter, the Bulldogs looked to improve on their 10-7 lead, but Seabury had his 38-yard field goal attempt blocked by freshman Jhamell Blenman II (St. Bernard HS), which the Falcons converted into a 32-yard Abraham Delgadillo (Gahr HS) 32-yard field goal.

The Falcons had difficulty moving the ball on the ground and had just 38 yards through the first half. They finished with just 58 yards, with Booth leading the team with 73 yards on 18 carries, which included the first touchdown of the game from four yards out.

Simpson finished the night with 236 passing yards and two touchdowns on 15-of-28 passes, with Sanchez pulling in six of them for 91 yards.

Several strong defensive games were turned in by the Falcons, as freshman linebacker Peako Tautai (Lakewood HS) posted 11 tackles, along with 2 1/2 tackles for loss, while freshman free safety Chandler Nixon (La Habra HS) turned in nine tackles and a pair of tackles for loss.

Photos by Daryl Peterson