The victory also gave Cerritos head coach Frank Mazzotta his 200th career victory in a 21-16 win over Citrus (1-6, 0-3) October 17th in Glendora.
Cerritos maintained its perfect record and a share of the lead in the rugged National Division, Central Conference. But the Owls, which have just one win this season (against winless LA Southwest) and who lost 55-0 last week against Mt. San Antonio, nearly pulled the upset. Citrus lost by just 5 points and drove to the Falcon 15 in the final four minutes of the game with a chance to take the lead before the Cerritos defense turned them away.
The first half was filled with turnovers by both teams, and Citrus could easily have had a lead at halftime. The Owls drove to the Cerritos 3 on their first drive of the game, but had to settle for a field goal. Then they got the ball deep in Falcon territory late in the first quarter after Gabriel Aquino recovered a fumble, but lost the ball back moments later when Cerritos' David Lopez recovered an Owl fumble. Then a long punt return by Kevin Puckett Jr. gave Citrus another scoring chance in the second quarter, but an interception by Lopez ended that threat. And after Cerritos finally did take a 9-7 lead on a touchdown late in the half, Cerritos answered with a long drive to take a 14-9 lead at the break.
Cerritos also had three turnovers in the first half, which kept the Falcons from opening a big lead early on. Cerritos took the opening kickoff and drove easily down the field until a fumble by Marshawn Friloux. Aquino recovered for the Owls, and the home team then put together a 15-play, drive that resulted in a short field goal by Eric De Lira. Citrus had reached the Falcon 3, and Isaac Tucker nearly scored on what would have been a 29-yard run before being stopped by Cerritos' Eric Russell at the 4. Moments later, Waters was thrown for a 4-yard loss, and was also injured on the play. The Owls settled for the field goal to go ahead, 3-0.
That lead was short-lived, as on the ensuing kickoff Moore returned the kick 79 yards for the touchdown. He fielded a pooch kick at his own 19, and briefly bobbled the ball. When he finally had the ball secured, he burst through the coverage for the 79-yard return, the third kickoff and fourth kick return of the season for touchdowns for Cerritos. That made it 7-3.
Then came the turnovers and missed opportunities. Lenyatta Kiles intercepted a Byron Ingram pass, but that only led to a Cerritos punt. On Cerritos' next possession, Tylik Carter fumbled and Robert Horn recovered for Citrus at the Falcon 17. But that threat ended when Ingram fumbled and Cerritos' David Lopez recovered at the 2. Cerritos went three-and-out, but Puckett, taking a lateral from Tyra Waits, who had caught the punt, returned the punt 43 yards to the Falcon 14. But then 6-4 safety Drew Harris deflected an Ingram pass and Lopez intercepted the ball in the end zone to end that threat.
Finally, late in the first half, Citrus put together a scoring drive and took the lead. A 36-yard pass from Ingram to Matthew Cheaney got things started, and a 7-yard touchdown pass from Ingram to Jonathan Price capped the drive with 3:47 left in the second quarter.
But once again, the lead was short-lived as Cerritos answered with a long scoring drive of its own. A penalty on the kickoff return pushed the Falcons back to their own 10, but Morales then engineered a 12-play, 90-yard touchdown drive to re-take the lead. A 1-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Eric Roberson made it 14-9 with 14 seconds left in the half.
And when the second half began, Cerritos extended its lead with a quick, 5-play drive to make it 21-9. Citrus took the second half kickoff, but had to punt without gaining a first down. Then on the punt, Russell returned the ball 34 yards for Cerritos to the Citrus 28. A penalty following the play pushed the ball back to the 43, but it still took just 5 plays for Cerritos to score, with Morales throwing a 17-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Robbins to make it 21-9.
But then the Citrus defense dug in, forcing Cerritos to punt on six straight possessions. The Citrus offense still turned the ball over twice more - once on an interception and once on a fumble - but the Falcons could not extend their lead. When the fourth quarter began, the Owls were on the move, about to make the game a lot closer. And most of that was due to the passing of Ingram.
Still trailing by 12 points, Citrus took the ball at its own 43 after the third of those six Cerritos punts. And by now, Ingram was starting to find his groove. A 16-yard pass to Price got the Owls into Cerritos territory. A 10-yard pass to Waits got the Owls to the 28. 11-yard passes to Cheaney and Andrew Romero got the Owls a first and goal. And two plays later, Ingram threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Rice to make it 21-16 with 13:02 left.
Citrus' next two possessions went nowhere, but the Owls got the ball one final time with just under 5 minutes left on the last of those six Cerritos punts. This time, Waits took the punt, and helped by an absolutely pulverizing block from Namari Flentroy, returned it 37 yards up the left sideline to the Owl 45. Then 36-yard pass from Ingram to Cheaney down the left sideline got the ball to the Cerritos 15 with just under 4 minutes left.
But then the Cerritos defense stepped up just in time to save the game. Ingram lost 3 yards on first down after bobbling the snap, and threw two incomplete passes on the next two plays. On 4th down, he seemed to have an angle to hit Cheaney in the end zone, but Cerritos' DeQuan Everett recovered just in time to knock down the pass, turning the ball over on downs and ending the threat.
With the victory finally in sight, Cerritos ran out the clock behind the strong running of Carter, who gained a pair of first downs in the final 2:40. And as the clock neared zero, the Cerritos players ambushed Mazzotta with a cooler of water to celebrate the coach's 200th victory.
For Cerritos, Morales completed 16 of 33 passes for 195 yards and 2 TDs. Carter had 85 yards on 19 carries, including 27 yards on 6 carries in those final two minutes to secure the game. Robbins and Lucas Mealy each had 4 catches to lead Falcon receivers. And on defense, Lopez had a huge game with a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery. Jonathan Holmes also had a strong game with an interception and a fumble forced on a sack. Moore had 143 yards on three kickoff returns, including the touchdown in the first quarter.
And if there was ever a moral victory in defeat, it came for Citrus on this day. After absorbing an absolute shellacking last week, the Owls came within 15 yards and a couple of minutes of the huge upset. Ingram was at the center of it all, setting school records with his 29 completions and 56 attempts, and finishing with 335 yards and 2 TDs. That was especially important since the Owls were without starting running back Brandon Stansell, who was injured vs. Mt. SAC, and lost Tucker in the first quarter of this game. Cheaney had a huge game receiving with 8 catches for 151 yards.
The win keeps Cerritos tied atop the National-Central in a 3-way tie with Mt. San Antonio and El Camino, setting up what promises to be a most compelling stretch drive in this ultra-competitive conference.
Cerritos Falcons 21
Citrus Owls 16
Saturday, October 17, 2009 - 1 pm - Citrus College Stadium - Glendora
National Division - Central Conference
Citrus - FG De Lira 23 yds 5:35 (0-3)
Cerritos - Moore 79 yd kickoff return (Rodriguez kick) 5:23 (7-3)
Citrus - Rice 7 yd pass from Ingram (kick wide right) 3:47 (7-9)
Cerritos - Roberson 1 yd pass from Morales (Rodriguez kick) 0:14 (14-9)
Cerritos - Robbins 17 yd pass from Ingram (Rodriguez kick) 10:59 (21-9)
Citrus - Rice 8 yd pass from Ingram (De Lira kick) 13:02 (21-16)
First Downs: Citrus 18 (3 rush, 14 pass, 1 penalty), Cerritos 18 (8 rush, 10 pass)
Rushes-Yds: Citrus 29-79, Cerritos 38-126
Passing Yds: Citrus 335, Cerritos 195
Comp-Att-Int: Citrus 29-56-3, Cerritos 16-34-1
Return Yds: Citrus 162, Cerritos 261
Sacks-Yds: Citrus 2-15, Cerritos 2-20
Fumbles-Lost: Citrus 3-2, Cerritos 4-2
Penalties-Yds: Citrus 7-60, Cerritos 6-64
Time of Possession: Citrus 30:21, Cerritos 29:39
Rushing: Citrus 2-Ingram 14-32, 36-Williams 7-24, 20-Tucker 4-22, 28-Moore 2-2, 37-Fakatoka 1-0, team 1-(-1); Cerritos 21-Carter 19-85, 6-Chambers 6-42, 82-Williams 1-8, 10-Moore 1-4, 34-Friloux 3-2, 7-Denker 2-(-1), 13-Morales 4-(-11), team 2-(-3)
Passing: Citrus 2-Ingram 29-56-3-335, 2 TDs; Cerritos 13-Morales 16-33-1-195, 2 TDs; 7-Denker 0-1-0-0
Receiving: Citrus 19-Cheaney 8-151, 7-Price 5-56, 3-Rice 5-37, 4-Waits 5-29, 84-Romero 4-54, 20-Tucker 1-5, 36-Williams 1-3; Cerritos 9-Robbins 4-45, 81-Lucas 4-38, 2-Willie 3-59, 10-Moore 2-35, 17-Johnson 2-17, 19-Roberson 1-1
Interceptions-Ret Yds: Citrus 1-Puckett 1-0; Cerritos 11-Lopez 1-23, 5-Kiles 1-7, 48-Holmes 1-0
Sacks-Yds: Citrus 44-Barbone 1-8, 93-Augustyn 1-7; Cerritos 48-Holmes 1-11, 11-Lopez 1-9
Fumble Rec-Ret Yds: Citrus 32-Aquino 1-0, 46-Horn 1-0; Cerritos 9-Peppard 1-15, 11-Lopez 1-15
Punters: Citrus 80-Zaragoza 6-38.0 avg; Cerritos 42-Culler 8-35.8 avg
Kick Returns: Citrus 5-Flentroy 2-36, 4-Waits 1-13, 3-Rice 1-(-1); Cerritos 10-Moore 3-143, 4-Russell 1-6
Punt Returns: Citrus 4-Waits 4-71, 1-Puckett 1-43; Cerritos 4-Russell 1-34, 15-Curry 3-18
Missed FG: none
Notes: Cerritos entered 5-0, 1-0 in conference, ranked #3 in South and #8 in nation (JCGW). Citrus entered 1-5 overall and 0-1 in conference...and the Owls almost pulled off the upset. Citrus' FG came after a 15-play drive following Aquino's fumble recovery, but Moore returned the ensuing kickoff for a TD for Cerritos. Citrus had a chance to take the lead, driving to the Cerritos 15, but turned the ball over on downs with 2:40 left and Cerritos ran out the clock. Ingram set Citrus school records for most completions and most attempts in a game. This is just the second time these schools have played each other; Cerritos also won last year. This is Cerritos coach Frank Mazzotta's 200th career win, all at Cerritos!