On Saturday afternoon at Covina District Field in Covina, the La Cañada Gladiator Midget team defeated the previously undefeated East Los Angeles Bobcats 29-20 to capture the 2012 Jr. All-American Football Championship. It was the seventh conference championship won by La Cañada Gladiator teams in the past 10 years. The Gladiators finished the season with a record of 10-0. They scored 411 points on the year and allowed only 54.
The Gladiator defense was tough all season, accounting for six shutouts. Led by linebackers Sam Martinez and David Vardanian, and defensive ends Maxx Jakeway and Johnny Padilla, the Gladiator defense allowed the Bobcats only three first downs in the first half.
Brandon Cook, Jessie Blackwell, Charles Weinmann, and Isaiah Guardado anchored the center of the line, while Dominic Jones, Will Rees, Johnnie Padilla, Angel Salazar, and Drake Beasley blanketed the Bobcat receivers. Jones played had a fumble recovery and an interception in the playoffs.
During the regular season, the Gladiators relied heavily on their ground attack. In the first nine games the running backs – Drake Beasley, Angel Salazar, Will Rees, Lucas Loera, Maxx Jakeway, and quarterback Jasher Foster – accounted for almost 3,000 rushing yards. Beasley personally averaged more than 177 yards per game and rushed for more than 1,421 yards on the season.
But with Beasley nursing an ankle injury and a Bobcat defense focused on stopping the ground game, the Gladiator offense relied on Foster’s arm. Foster accounted for all four of the Gladiator scores, running for one touchdown and throwing for three more during the game.
The Gladiators struck quickly in the first quarter. On the first offensive play of the game, Foster took the snap from the shotgun and ran 59 yards for a score. Late in the first half a Gladiator turnover deep in La Cañada territory gave the Bobcats a scoring opportunity that cut the Gladiator lead to 7-6. But Beasley returned the ensuing kickoff to the Bobcat 49 yard line, and with fewer than 20 seconds in the half, Foster hit Beasley in the end zone on a 12-yard slat. The two-point conversion put the Gladiators up 15-6 at the half.
In the third quarter, the Gladiator offensive line of Martinez, Weinmann, center Matthew Bazarevitsch, David Frost, Nigel Jackson, Anthony Barales, Steven Isip, Hunter Burnett, and Christopher Mata began to open holes in the Bobcat defense. With the Bobcats keying on the running game, Foster hit Beasley for a touchdown of 19 yards. Matt Bazarevitsch added the extra point to put the Gladiators up 22-6 at the end of the third quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Bobcats fumbled and the ball was recovered by an alert Dominic Jones at the La Cañada 48 yard-line. Foster then hit wide receiver Isip in the end zone from 18 yards out. Bazarevitsch added the extra point to put the Gladiators up 29-6. The score was set up by a great fourth down pass play from Foster to Beasley for 27 yards.
Although East L.A. managed two scores late, it wasn’t enough.
Gladiator Head Coach Jason Sarceda, who also coached last year’s Jr. Midget team to a 10-0 conference championship, said that at the Midget level, many of the payers had never played football before, but “the team really came together during the season.”
He noted that Foster was one such first year player.
“Foster really stepped up when we needed him most during the playoffs,” said Sarceda, “running for two touchdowns last week against Hacienda Heights, and scoring four touchdowns against the Bobcats.”
“We were very fortunate to have Jason as a Gladiator coach for the past several years,” said Gladiator President Kevin Lacey. “Jason is the first coach to have back-to-back undefeated seasons.”
Contributed by Kevin LACEY