Cerritos Wears Down Victor Valley, Wins Bowl

Michael Keeling threw a pair of second-half TD passes as Cerritos (7-4) overcame an early 11-point deficit to Victor Valley (7-4) and claim a 34-22 win in the 52nd Annual Shrine Potato Bowl in Bakersfield November 22nd. Keeling's 76-yd scoring pass to Nathan Endemano gave Cerritos its first lead of the game, and his 23-yd scoring strike to David Nichols early in the 4th quarter put Cerritos in control, and with that Keeling was named the game's Most Valuable Player.

Carlos Velasquez was named the game's top Offensive Player for his 129 yds rushing on 20 carries, and teammate Endemano finished the game with 4 catches for 120 yds. Keeling completed 8 of 16 passes for 161 yds and 2 TDs, and directed a Cerritos offense that committed just one turnover on the day, allowing the team to stay close while the Falcon defense shut down the VVC offense.

For the first quarter, Victor Valley was in complete control of the game. The Rams took the opening kickoff and moved slowly and methodically down the field. A 12-yd pass from QB Scott Jefferies to WR Ozzie Mathis, followed by an 18-yd run by RB Bennie Curry, got the ball into Falcon territory. Two more runs by Curry brought the Rams to the Cerritos 20, and a pair of runs by RB Ryan Gilbert gave VVC first and goal at the 9. The Cerritos defense tried to dig in, and they forced a 4th and goal from the 8, but on that 4th down play the 237-lb Curry powered through the left side of the line for the score, giving Victor Valley a 7-0 lead just under 6 minutes into the game.

When Cerritos got the ball, the offense gained a net of no yards on three plays, so on came punter George Villa to kick the ball away. But when Villa's high punt came down, VVC return man Kevin Stanley couldn't hold onto the ball and Cerritos' John Brasfield recovered for the Falcons at the Victor Valley 39. A 27-yd run by Velasquez got the ball to the 12. The drive stalled three plays later at the 7, but on came Craig James, who kicked a 24-yd field goal to cut the VVC lead to 7-3.

And when Victor Valley got the ball back, they again drove down the field with little difficulty. A 35-yd pass from Jefferies to Matt Hagge got the ball into Falcon territory, and a 19-yd pass to Terriko Carr moved the Rams to the Cerritos 13. Jefferies' 15-yd pass to Mathis moved the ball to the 3 for first and goal. Again, the Cerritos defense dug in for a goal line stand and forced a 4th and goal from the 1, but again Curry powered through on 4th down for the score, and Victor Valley had a 14-3 lead. For the quarter, VVC had 8 first downs while Cerritos had just one.

But from that point, things shifted, slowly but inexorably, into Cerritos' favor. By the time Victor Valley scored again, the outcome of the game would be decided, and the Falcon players would be primarily concerned with which coaches to douse with icewater in their victory celebration.

On the ensuing kickoff return, a penalty for an illegal block pinned Cerritos at its own 8-yard line. But a pair of runs by Velasquez helped the Falcons get out of the shadow of the goalposts to the 29. Moments later a 37-yd pass from Keeling to Endemano got the Falcons into Ram territory, bringing the ball to the VVC 32. A pair of runs by Keeling got the ball to the 20, and then a pair of runs by Daniel Dixon moved the ball to the VVC 4-yard line.

At that point the Victor Valley defense dug in, however, and turned Cerritos away without any points. A bad snap doomed one play, and Velasquez and Dixon were each stopped for short gains. On 4th and 2, Keeling's pass was batted down by VVC's Stanley on a great play in the corner of the end zone, turning the ball over to the Rams at the 2.

Following a 1-yd gain by Curry, Jefferies threw a pass over the middle on second down, and it was intercepted by Cerritos' Eric Frierson, who ran the ball down the left sideline and dove into the corner of the end zone for the touchdown. That made the score 14-10 midway through the second quarter.

Neither team scored during the remainder of the first half. Victor Valley's Jefferies pinned Cerritos at its own 4 with a perfectly-executed punt, but even though the Rams got the ball back near midfield on its next series, the Cerritos defense held firm and didn't allow a first down before the half ended.

Each team had the ball three times without scoring to begin the second half. Even after VVC's Jamiel Van Over intercepted a Keeling pass at the Cerritos 39, the Falcon defense turned the Rams away without allowing a yard, let alone a first down. Jefferies' punt went into the end zone, giving Cerritos the ball at its own 20 with 4:14 left in the third quarter.

The series started quietly, with Velasquez gaining a yard on first down, and Keeling throwing to Freddie Davis for 3 yds on second down. But on third down, Endemano ran a slant pattern over the middle, and Keeling threw him the ball in stride. Endemano made the catch and outran the VVC secondary down the middle of the field, going 76 yds for the score. That gave Cerritos its first lead of the day at 17-14, and now momentum was clearly in the Falcons' favor.

Victor Valley got the ball and drove into Cerritos territory. A 17-yd pass to Carr got the ball to the 44, and a 9-yd pass to Mathis moved it into Cerritos territory. But that still left the Rams facing a 4th and 1, and on the final play of the third quarter, Curry was stopped for no gain at the 47, giving the ball back to the Falcons to begin the 4th quarter.

And again, the Cerritos offense struck quickly. A 6-yd run by Velasquez was followed by runs of 21 yds and 3 yds by Dixon, moving the ball to the VVC 23. And on the next play, Keeling hooked up with David Nichols, who had run through the middle of the Victor Valley secondary and was wide open, on a 23-yd TD pass that gave Cerritos a 24-14 lead and complete control of the game.

Victor Valley got a 31-yd pass from Jefferies to WR Daniel Robinson to get the ball to midfield on its next possession, and an 11-yd pass to Curry got the ball to the 38. But then came three incomplete passes, and VVC elected to punt on 4th down to try to pin Cerritos deep. The strategy backfired when the ball went off the side of Jefferies' foot and out of bounds at the 33 for a 5-yd punt.

And by now, the Cerritos offensive line had taken control of the line of scrimmage, and the Falcons were able to move down the field. Runs of 16 and 15 yds by Velasquez, and a 15-yd run by Dixon got the Falcons into VVC territory. Craig James came on to kick a 31-yd field goal with 6:13 to play, giving Cerritos a 27-14 lead.

Victor Valley still trailed by just two scores, and a 17-yd pass to Stanley moved the ball to the 45. But moments later, a Jefferies pass was intercepted by Cerritos' Eric Portley, who returned the ball to the Victor Valley 33. Cerritos' backup QB, Kevin Brown, came on and threw a pass on first down towards the right sideline that was hauled in by Dixon for a 33-yd touchdown, making it 34-14 and ending any doubt about the game's outcome.

Victor Valley scored with just over a minute left on a 6-yd pass from Jefferies to Carr, but by that time the Cerritos bench was busy planning which coaches would be drenched first with the icewater.

Jefferies finished the game 18 of 43 passing for 270 yds and a TD and 2 interceptions. Robinson, who also saw extensive time at DB and returned a couple of kickoffs, caught a team-high 5 passes for 89 yds. Curry was the team's leading rusher with 56 yds on 16 carries and 2 TDs. Stanley was named the game's top defensive player for several outstanding plays in the secondary.

But most of the VVC offense came either in the first quarter or after Cerritos had secured the win. The Rams managed just 7 first downs during the time Cerritos scored 31 points, turning a 14-3 deficit into a 34-14 lead. And Curry had just 10 yds on 7 carries after his second TD run. As the game wore on, the superior Cerritos defensive front simply took control of the line of scrimmage, and once Keeling started throwing TD passes the Falcons had their victory.

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