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La Mirada’s Luatua, Myres foils Norwalk’s upset bid in final minutes


By Loren Kopff

LA MIRADA-The Suburban League opened in classic fashion last Friday night with two teams that are favored to win the circuit in six more weeks. For now, La Mirada has a slight edge thanks to a 59-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Gerry Myres to junior tight end Tyler Luatua with 1:39 left in the game lifting the Matadores to a 29-23 come from behind victory.
Just 51 seconds earlier, junior Jorge Perez had given the Lancers a 23-21 lead with a 24-yard field goal. But junior Tyler Hallock returned the ensuing kickoff 28 yards. A pair of runs from junior running back Adam Carrasco totaling 11 yards set up the game-winning score.
“We didn’t play very well,” said La Mirada head coach Mike Moschetti. “We played about as bad offensively as we could. Two first half turnovers killed us. But each week, there’s some type of adversity thrown at [these kids] and we persevered and we found a way to win the game.”
“We put an extra safety in and told the guy, ‘don’t bite on the run’,” said Norwalk head coach Jesse Ceniceros. “But [Myres] had all day to throw, too. We didn’t have pressure on him. Our kids played hard. It was just a broken play that took the wind out of our sails. It was at the right for them because it happened at the end of the game.”
The game was matchup of the second ranked (La Mirada) and third ranked (Norwalk) teams in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Southeast Division and the game lived up to that billing. Carrasco’s three-yard run late in the first quarter gave the Matadores a 7-0 lead. But after Norwalk’s defense forced a punt the next time the hosts got the ball, the Lancers tied the game with 7:31 left in the half on a 19-yard run around the right side from junior wingback Rashaad Penny.
Less than a minute later, Norwalk senior lineman Eduardo Limon recovered a Carrasco fumble and two plays later, Penny went around the right side again for a 29-yard score and a 14-7 lead. But both teams would provide some drama in the final 47 seconds in the half.
First, Myres launched a 33-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Dallis Shipp to tie the game. Then 20 second later, the Lancers (4-1 overall, 0-1 in league) regained the lead when senior running back Malcom McAllister busted loose for a 55-yard score. However, probably the defining moment of the game came at the beginning of the second half.
La Mirada (4-1, 1-0) got the ball to begin the half and Carrasco carried all 11 times of the drive for 66 yards including a one-yard run 4:33 into the third quarter to put the Matadores in front 21-20.
“That’s something that we talked about at halftime,” Moschetti said. “These kids are doing a great job when we go in halftime and making adjustments. That’s two weeks in a row we’ve gotten the [second half] kickoff and went down the field and scored.”
After that touchdown, both teams combined for four punts until Perez kicked the field goal for Norwalk’s last points. Penny was held to 125 yards on 19 carries while McAllister added 104 yards on 12 touches. The Lancers had 255 yards of offense, all on the ground. On defense, McAllister had seven and a half tackles followed by six and a half tackles from junior lineman Aaron Armendarez.
“It’s just a testament to our team this year,” Ceniceros said. “Twice we were down against Diamond Bar and we were able to come back from 14 points down. It was the same thing here. They don’t quit; we have tough kids this year.”
Meanwhile, Carrasco led everyone with 161 yards on 28 carries. Myres completed eight passes for 178 yards with Luatua hauling in five receptions for 129 yards.
“I thought our offensive line played extremely well,” Moschetti said. “Gerry struggled a little bit but when we got the ball back on that [last drive], he made a play and Luatua was running right down the middle of the field. It was a huge play for us.”
This was Norwalk’s fourth straight loss to La Mirada but the lowest scoring contest between the two squads since Oct. 12, 2007 when the Matadores squeaked by the Lancers 14-10 on Norwalk’s homecoming night. Since then, they have combined to score 65, 75, 69 and 70 points respectively when they have met.
“There were a couple of good defenses out there,” Ceniceros said. “There were tough, physical kids and good coaching, obviously. If we didn’t do what we did, they would be scoring 48 points. Look what they did against La Habra, which is a pretty decent team.”
Norwalk, which dropped to fourth in the division, will visit Artesia tonight while La Mirada, the division’s new top ranked team, travels to Bellflower.
“The way we approach it here is we’ll celebrate this tonight and we’ll wake up tomorrow and our focus is going to be on getting better in the film room tomorrow, getting better in the weight room and come in and break down Bellflower,” Moschetti said. “We don’t care who we play, where we play or when we play. It’s the next game on the schedule and we’re going to work just as hard against them as anybody else.”

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