Cerritos Stuns Mt. San Antonio

After overcoming a 21-point first-half deficit, the Cerritos Falcons blocked a short field goal attempt with just over 2 minutes to play and returned it for a touchdown to send previously-unbeaten Mt. San Antonio to a most unlikely defeat in front of its stunned fans November 1st in Walnut.

In the early going, it looked like it would be an easy win for the Mounties, who entered 7-0 and ranked #3 in the nation by JC Grid-Wire. The Mt. SAC defense surrendered just 2 first downs on five Cerritos possessions, by which time the Mounties had built a 21-0 lead. A pair of TD passes by Adam Ernst and a short TD run by Cazmir Hill accounted for the three scores. Ernst connected with star WR Delanie Walker on a 9-yard TD pass to cap a 58-yard drive that included a 31-yard run by Hill to put Mt. SAC ahead 7-0 in the first quarter, and he threw a 31-yard scoring pass to Justin Bowie following a fumble recovery by DL Austin Jackson midway through the second quarter. Those were sandwiched around a 2-yard TD run by Hill on the first play of the second quarter that capped a 10-play, 48-yard drive.

And even after Cerritos got on the board just before halftime, on a 24-yard field goal by Craig James, Mt. SAC held a comfortable 21-3 lead. And then the Mounties received the second half kickoff and were driving for what looked like the score that would put the game away.

That's when the turning point of the game occurred. Following the kickoff, Mt. SAC had driven to the Cerritos 20 when an Ernst pass bounced off a receiver and into the waiting hands of Falcon Safety Eric Frierson, who returned the ball up the right sideline. Frierson, whose big hits in the first half had apparently earned some hostility from the Mt. SAC receivers, was forced out of bounds near midfield. But after Frierson was already out of bounds, Mt. SAC's Walker gave him an extra shove, and a donnybrook ensued. Somehow the coaches and officials managed to prevent a full-scale brawl, and nobody was ejected, but by the time things were sorted out an extra 15 yards for a personal foul against Walker were assessed, and more importantly, the previously-quiet Cerritos bench was fired up.

The new spirit quickly translated to success on the field as well. A 14-yard run by Daniel Dixon got the ball to the Mountie 18, and a 10-yard pass from Michael Keeling to David Nichols took it to the 7. Moments later, Mt. SAC was flagged for pass interference in the end zone, giving Cerritos first and goal at the 2. On 3rd down, Keeling powered through the middle and over at least a pair of Mt. SAC defenders for a 3-yard scoring run. James' extra point made it 21-10, and the momentum was on Cerritos' side.

On its next possession, the Mt. SAC offense managed just 1 first down and punted the ball back to Cerritos. The Falcons went on a 10-play, 66-yard drive, highlighted by a 39-yard pass from Keeling to Carlos Velasquez, that ended with a 29-yard field goal by James. That closed the margin to a single score at 21-13 with 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

When Mt. SAC got the ball back, on came backup QB Derek Devine. But an ill-fated lateral pass play to Walker resulted in a 9-yard loss to the Mounties' 3-yard line, and once again Mt. SAC had to punt. Following a 3-yard return by Gregory Smith, Cerritos got the ball on the Mt. SAC 45-yard line.

And one play later, the Falcons got the chance to tie the score. On the first play of the drive, Dixon took a handoff and went straight though the middle of the defense and into the end zone untouched. His 45-yard run made it 21-19, so Cerritos elected to go for the 2-point conversion to try to tie the score. And that strategy paid off when Keeling passed to Dixon just across the goal line to even things at 21 each with 13:28 left in the game.

Neither team was able to mount a scoring threat the next 2 times they got the ball. Mt. SAC punted twice, while Cerritos had an interception (thrown by backup QB Kevin Brown in a brief appearance) and a punt. After that last punt, Mt. SAC got the ball at the Cerritos 46 with 6:09 left to play.

Facing a 3rd down and 11, Mt. SAC got a huge play from Daniel Nembhard, who gained 32 yards on a pass from Devine. A penalty for an illegal block shortened the play, but the ball was spotted at the Mt. SAC 25, seemingly within field goal range for Mt. SAC's Hugo Barajas. Devine then completed passes to Walker for 7 yards and Bowie for 8 yards to get the ball to the 9. Three plays later, with the ball at the Cerritos 2-yard line, Barajas came on for what looked like an easy, game-winning field goal.

But Cerritos had other ideas. The Falcons, who beat Compton earlier this season by blocking an extra point attempt in the final minutes of the game, have made blocking kicks an art-form. As the ball was snapped, Cerritos got a huge surge in the middle of the line, and big Rickey Parker appeared to be the Falcon who swatted the ball away. As the ball bounced towards the right sideline, Cerritos' Heith Robertson picked it up in stride and outraced all pursuers in an 85-yard touchdown run.

Mt. SAC had one last chance to rally, and Ernst returned at QB for the Mounties. A 13-yard pass to Walker and a 15-yard pass to Demetrius Hughes got the ball near midfield. An 11-yard pass to Walker and a 7-yard pass to Hill got the ball to the 24. But then the drive stalled, and Mt. SAC faced 4th and 3. With all the downfield receivers covered, Ernst threw the ball to FB Joseph Huggett, but he was tackled by a swarm of Falcons for a 1-yard gain, turning the ball over to Cerritos with 15 seconds left.

Dixon led the Cerritos offense with 93 yards on 18 carries. Keeling had 117 yards passing (on 8 of 19) and 57 yards rushing. Nathan Endemano led Falcon receivers with 4 catches for 57 yards.

For Mt. SAC, Hill led the way with 118 yards rushing on 26 carries plus 4 catches for 24 yards. Ernst finished 22 of 32 for 188 yards, 2 TDs and an interception while backup Devine was 5 of 6 for 61 yards. Walker led all receivers with 9 catches for 67 yards.

Despite the loss, Mt. SAC maintains its lead in the Mission Conference's American Division, but by the slimmest of margins. The Mounties are now 7-1 overall but 5-1 in the Mission, and hold the head-to-head tie breaker over Palomar (who is also 5-1). Cerritos improves to 5-3 overall and 4-2 in the Mission.

Cerritos won despite not getting the better of most of the day's statistics. First downs (21 to 14), yards on offense (384 to 296), time of possession (30:45 to 29:15) and even turnovers (2 to 1) all favored the Mounties. But the blocked field goal play made up for all that.

Notes:

Upset! Mt. SAC entered 7-0, #2 South, #3 JCGW; Cerritos entered 4-3, #14 in South. The turning point was on Frierson's interception. Plus, Walker put a late hit on him out of bounds. He was flagged, but it started a brief scuffle and fired up the Cerritos side. It was 21-3 at the time. Mt. SAC drove to the Cerritos 2 for their ill-fated FG try. They drove to the Cerritos 24 on their last possession but facing a 4th and 3 at the 24 Ernst passed to Huggett, who gained only 1 yard. Devine replaced Ernst after the interception; Ernst returned for Mt. SAC's final drive. Brown replaced Keeling for 1 series in the 4th qtr; the series ended on the interception.

Individual Statistics:

Rushing:

M: 1-Hill 26-118, 20-Ekpre-Olomu 3-16, 10-Ernst 1-5, 15-Matlock 1-5, 19-Walker 1-(-9)
C: 4-Dixon 18-93, 16-Keeling 12-57, 25-Velasquez 4-13, team 1-(-1)

Passing:

M: 10-Ernst 22-32-1-188, 2 TDs; 6-Devine 5-6-0-61
C: 16-Keeling 8-19-0-117; 12-Brown 1-3-1-17

Receiving:

M: 19-Walker 9-67, 80-Bowie 5-63, 1-Hill 4-24, 2-Nembhard 3-46, 82-Martin 3-25, 88-Hughes 1-15, 40-Tavake 1-8, 48-Huggett 1-1
C: 80-Emdemano 4-57, 9-Nichols 2-27, 5-Kirkpatrick 2-11, 25-Velasquez 1-39

Punters:

M: 47-Stapp 6-36.5 avg
C: 98-Villa 5-30.8 avg

Kick Ret:

M: 2-Nembhard 5-119
C: 4-Dixon 1-18

Punt Ret:

M: none
C: 10-Smith 3-7

Int-Ret Yds:

M: 7-Moore 1-0
C: 21-Frierson 1-37

Fum Rec:

M: 55-Jackson
C: none

Sacks:

M: 11-Toilolo, 79-Tafisi 1/2, 90-Davis ½
C: none

Missed FG:

M: 14-Barajas 20 yds (blocked by 93-Parker)

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