Gladiator Championship Report

Saturday, Nov. 21

Pee Wee (Conference Championship)

Final Score: La Cañada: 36
Walnut Diamond Bar Cowboys: 6

The La Cañada Gladiators left no doubt that they deserved the Conference Championship with a 36-6 triumph over the previously undefeated Walnut Diamond Bar Cowboys on Saturday afternoon at Mountain View High School in El Monte.  In addition to finishing 10-0 and undisputed Conference Champs, the Gladiators also received the Conference trophies for the highest team GPA and Sportsmanship scores.

On offense Kyle Tavizon led Gladiator running backs with 28 yards on seven carries.  Tavizon also lead the defense with nine tackles, two sacks, and an interception returned for a score. Quarterback Kyle Cheung continued to have a great season, hitting on over 70% of his passes, throwing for 95 yards and two touchdowns, including an outstanding 27 yard pass to wide receiver Robby Benson.

After winning the toss, the Gladiators deferred and kicked off to the Cowboys.  The Cowboys’ wishbone offense was unable to move the ball, and a poor punt set up the Gladiators deep in Cowboy territory. Ernesto Juaregui then pounded the ball into the endzone from 7-yards out.  After Nick McConnell added the extra point, the Gladiators were up 8-0 at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Gladiator offensive line came alive.  The Gladiator offense line of by Sean Bloks, Sean Davitt, Matthew Perasso, Joey Robertson, Chris Basso, Alex Espinosa, Trent Bauer, Gunnar Trowbridge, Mike Reilly, and wide outs Ross Niederhaus, Cameron Chavez, Robert Benson, and Matt Erickson neutralized the Cowboy defense, while running backs Tavizon, Juaregui, and Jack Philo chewed up yardage.  After a 17-yard scramble by quarterback Cheung put the Gladiators on the Cowboy three yard line, it appeared that the Gladiators were about to take a commanding two touchdown lead.  A stalwart defensive stand, however, kept La Canada out of the end zone, and the Cowboys took over on their own 1 yard line.  Two plays later, a Cowboy running back raced 98 yards for a score to close the gap to 8-6.

The Cowboy defense then held the Gladiator offense on downs, and it briefly appeared that momentum had swung to the Cowboys.  On a key 4th down play near mid-field, however, the Cowboy quarterback was sacked for a loss by Juaregui. With a short field, and time running out in the first half, Cheung hit Benson on a 27-yard scoring pass between two Cowboy defenders to put the Gladiators up 14-6 at the half.

In the second half, the Gladiators took the opening kickoff and running backs Juaregui, Tavizon, and Philo relentlessly ground out short gains.  Key receptions by Benson and Philo on consecutive third downs kept the drive alive. Tavizon capped the drive with a 10-yard run up the middle, and gave the Gladiators a 20-6 lead.

The Cowboy offense continued to have difficulty moving the ball, managing only two first downs in the second half.  The swarming Gladiator defense simply was not fooled by the Wishbone attack.  In addition to Tavizon’s great effort, defensive end Dominc Agular had an outstanding game with 5 tackles, including a devastating hit on a Cowboy running back.  Juaregui had two sacks, including a key 4th down sack, and seven tackles.  Cornerback Nick McConnell had two tackles and a fumble recovery.  Cornerback Charlie Bednar seemed to be everywhere on the field with three tackles. Gladiator defenders Sean Davitt, Sean Bloks, Chris Harb, Sam Brown, Joey McClure, Cheung, Travis Westhoff, Gregory Stupakis, Andrew Dehne, Jack Reilly, Troy Eggertson, and Colin Ducharme seemed to anticipate every Cowboy play.

After a quick three-and–out, the Gladiators took over near mid-field.  The Cowboys were again unable to stop the Gladiators whose mixed attack kept the Cowboys guessing.  On first down from the Cowboy 12-yard line, Cheung hit Philo, who made a great adjustment on the pass, in the corner of the end zone.  After McConnell added the extra pint, the Gladiators were up 28-6 at the end of the third quarter.

On the Cowboy’s first play of the fourth quarter, they fumbled at mid-field and McConnell pounced on the loose ball.  Later in the final quarter, on third down from their own 43 yard line, Tavizon intercepted an errant Cowboy pass and raced to the end zone.  McConnell’s kick put the Gladiators up 36-6.

After another three-and-out for the Gladiator defense, the offense took over and ran out the clock, giving the Gladiators a 36-6 victory and the Jr. All American Conference Championship.

In addition to winning the Conference Championship, the Gladiators also won the Scholastic Trophy with the highest overall GPA of any team in their division, and they won the Joy Reyes Sportsmanship Trophy for the highest sportsmanship score in their division.  Team GPA is determined by averaging the grades of each member of the squad.  Sportsmanship is determined by the officials who score each team in several categories following every game. The Gladiators competed with 32 other teams in their division for these awards. For the first time in the history of Jr. All American Football a single team won all three awards in the same year.

“This is an absolutely phenomenal achievement”, said Gladiator President Kevin Lacey.  “These awards illustrate that we succeeded in all out goals: the boys learned the game and played outstanding football while simultaneously maintaining a very high level of performance in the classroom, and when on the field they behaved like gentlemen.”

Lacey believes credit is due to the coaches, the players, and to the players’ parents for these three awards.  “Young men follow the lead and example of those around them,” he said. “Our coaches taught the boys a very intellectual game and constantly reminded them that school work and sportsmanship are paramount to success. At home, our parents emphasized this as well”, Lacey said, “and the result is that we had a group of bright kids, who knew the game and who maintained their composure at all times on the football field.  We are all very proud of what they have achieved on the field and in the classroom.”