Football Defense Steps Up In '21 Season-Opening Loss v. Cerritos

Lancer Giovanni Giron gets ready to make the tackle on this play during PCC's 2021 season-opening loss at Cerritos College.
Lancer Giovanni Giron gets ready to make the tackle on this play during PCC's 2021 season-opening loss at Cerritos College.

No one really knew what to expect when the Pasadena City College football team met up with an old rival from its Mission Conference days in host Cerritos College on Saturday night. The Lancers hadn't played a game in nearly two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are under new leadership in head coach Robert Tucker. 

But the Lancers, a current member of the SCFA American Division, more than showed they belonged in facing the Falcons, a National Division team that advanced to bowl games in 2018 and 2019. While PCC lost the 2021 season opener, 22-10, the Lancers defense created three turnovers and stifled Cerritos' passing game to just 121 yards. 

PCC started out well with returning All-State cornerback Kaydon Spens stepping in front of a Jordan Simpson pass along the sideline on the Falcons' first offensive play, returning an interception 29 yards to the Cerritos 7-yard line. The pickoff set up a 20-yard field goal by left-footed Cristian Contreras to give the Lancers a 3-0 lead 4:57 into the game. On Cerritos second drive, PCC's secondary again was opportunistic as safety Osvaldo Raigosa intercepted another Simpson pass inside the PCC 30. 

Pasadena held its short lead through the end of the first quarter, extending a streak going back to 2019 of 13 consecutive quarters without giving up either a touchdown or field goal. 

Cerritos' defense turned up its performance in the second quarter. A 41-yard coffin corner punt put PCC in poor field territory on its own 2. Victor Clanton then tackled PCC sophomore quarterback Kade Wentz in the end zone for a safety that cut the baseball-esque score to 3-2. J'lon Manning returned the ensuing free kickoff 45 yards to the PCC 12. Manning, a running back, then scored on a 9-yard TD run that finally ended PCC's defense streak. Cerritos led 8-3 in scoring eight points in a span of just 68 seconds.

An interception by Cerritos on the ensuing series, allowed the Falcons to get the ball back on their 45. Davon Booth then capped an 11-play drive on a 1-yard TD run that made it 15-3. PCC twice had potential scoring series come up empty in the final minutes of the second quarter. Pasadena drove to the Cerritos 30 keyed by a 22-yard run by Miles Anderson by another interception stopped that drive. On the next Lancers series, Wentz completed an 11-yard pass to Wheeler Smith, then got the team good field position with a 19-yard run that was coupled with a face mask penalty to advance the Lancers to the 24. With no time to work with, Contreras was short on a 40-yard field goal attempt as the half ended. 

Although Cerritos upped the lead to 22-3 after three quarters, PCC started to rally in the fourth period. Taking the ball at midfield, returning lefty quarterback Edward Norton, the school's 2019-2020 PCC Men's Athlete of the Year, connected on a 10-yard shovel pass to Jeremiah Hartfield. Norton capped a short series with a loft pass that second-year receiver Justen Campbell turned into a 16-yard circus TD catch as he dove in the back of the end zone and wasn't fazed by a Cerritos defender draped on him. Contreras kicked the extra point that cut the lead to 12 with 10:51 remaining.

With less than minutes left, PCC came up with a big defensive play as Ryan Pastran recovered a fumble with Cerritos ready to score from the Lancers 1. Pasadena then put together its best drive of the game. Wentz and Norton each had first-down runs of more than 10 yards and Wentz hit Campbell for an 11-yard pass. With 15 seconds left, Campbell nearly caught a 16-yard dart by Wentz in the end zone but lost control on a break-up by Falcon defensive back Cody Coleman.

Overall, transfer safety Salah Odeh was impressive with a team-high seven tackles (five solos) and a pass breakup while frosh linebacker Jordan Monroe made six tackles and put on blitz pressure with two hurries including a punishing hit on a Cerritos QB. Freshman linebacker Jaylon McGee made five tackles, including a nifty 6-yard tackle for loss. Offensively, Wentz completed 14 of 27 passes for 115 yards and Smith made a team-high five receptions for 44 yards. 

Next Saturday, Sept. 11, PCC faces one of Tucker's former schools in Los Angeles Valley College in a 6 p.m. kickoff at Robinson Stadium. (Note: at this time, no fans are allowed in attendance at Lancers home games.)

PCC GRID NOTES: Both teams totaled 19 first downs, but Cerritos biggest difference was its running game that gained 275 yards, 162 by Manning...Tucker named four team captains in lettermen Spens, Campbell, Wentz and redshirt freshman defensive end Michelangelo Loretto...It was the first meeting between PCC and Cerritos since 2015. The Falcons now lead the all-time series, 23-15...Hartfield had four catches for 47 yards and also added 67 yards in three kick returns..Wentz did double duty, serving as PCC's punter. He had a long of 41 yards and made five punts overall. Wentz also had the distinction of completing a 12-yard pass--to himself--in the first quarter as his attempt was batted back into his hands by a Falcons' pass rusher and the sophomore took off running on the bizarre play..PCC has a remarkable 18 returning players from the 2019 squad...Tucker coached LA Valley to two sensational seasons and a 20-2 overall record in 2015-2016. PCC holds a 12-5 advantage in the all-time series and last faced the Monarchs in the 2011 season in a 39-9 week #3 victory by the Lancers...LAVC opened the '21 season and had to face a buzzsaw in state power Mt. San Antonio, losing to the Mounties, 72-0, on Saturday at home. Mt. SAC led 42-0 by the end of the first quarter...PCC's mini 4-game win streak at the end of 2019 was will be carrying all of PCC's home games via live streaming. A link will be created for fans to watch the broadcasts beginning with next week's home opener.