By Jacob Wilson/Garden Grove Journal
The Garden Grove Argonauts have already overcome some big challenges this year.
Their biggest on-field challenge is this Saturday. The Argonauts (12-0) travel to play the Norwalk Lancers (11-1), a team that has dominated local teams over the past year.
The winner of the CIF Southwest Division semifinal will meet either La Mirada or Laguna Hills in next week’s championship game.
Last week the Lancers beat Westminster 64-21 in second round action. A week earlier Norwalk knocked Rancho Alamitos out of the first round by a 63-8 margin.
Only two teams held the high-powered Vaqueros to under 10 points this year. The Lancers and the Argonauts.
Earlier in the year Norwalk beat Pacifica 32-14 and Los Amigos 58-6.
Of course last year the Lancers knocked the then 9-1 Argonauts out of the playoffs in the first round. The score in that game: 38-6.
Despite the history, Garden Grove head coach Joe Hay is treating this game like any other and wants his team to do the same.
“I’m not going to let another team dictate what we do,” Hay said. “We’re going to go out and play our game. Our philosophy is to win one play at a time no matter if we’re on offense, defense or special teams and we’re carrying through with that.”
Norwalk head coach Jesse Ceniceros is also not going to let past success get in the way of playing the game.
“They’ve got a purpose this year,” he said, “not only that but they’re a good team. When they’re a good team and they’re strong and they’re playing with emotion like that, they’re scary. I see a good battle.”
Westminster head coach Ted McMillen, who faced both teams this year, agrees.
“I think Grove’s got a shot against these guys. It takes a couple stops and you’ve got to keep scoring with them” he said. “I think if they beat them it will be a high scoring game but they’re capable of it.”
Both teams can put up big numbers. Through 12 games the Lancers are averaging 49.5 points per game. The Argonauts average 40.5 points.
According to McMillen, Norwalk’s offense is one dimensional, but it’s a dimension few teams can fathom.
“They have no plan B,” McMillen said. “Their Plan A is awesome and they’ve got the guys to do it, but if it doesn’t work, they’re dead. It’ll come down to that.”
Norwalk’s offense is built to run at and over opponents. The Lancers run a double wing offense, similar to teams like Western and Tustin. Double wing offenses start three running backs and two blocking tight ends.
In two playoff games so far the Lancers rushed for 1074 yards and threw for 52.
Just as teams know what Norwalk will run but still can’t stop it, teams know who runs the Argonaut offense, but can’t stop him.
Argonaut quarterback Sean Young led the Garden Grove League in rushing with 1,065 yards and threw for another 1,190 yards. In two postseason games Young rushed for 281 yards and scored four touchdowns. The senior has also thrown for 257 yards and another four touchdowns.
But Young has plenty of support. Running back Josh Sepulveda rushed for 106 yards against Beckman in round two. Wide receiver Josh Webb had 82-yards and two touchdowns against Bellflower in the first round.
“I have a plethora of senior leadership,” Hay said. “Sean’s very lethal but he’s not our only weapon. They know how to run to the football and they know how to work.”
It‘s not just about offense with these teams though. Norwalk gives up 16 points per contest. The Lancers held seven teams to single digits although they don’t have a shutout this year.
Garden Grove allows nine points per game. The Argonauts shutout two teams and kept eight to single digits.
“Defensively I can’t say enough about the whole group,” Hay said. “They’re blue collar kids. They roll up their sleeves and they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty and just get after it and that’s how they play defense.”
The Lancers are used to dominating their opponents, including Garden Grove. Ceniceros says the key is to keep his team focused for a whole game and to keep them from letting their guard down.
“One thing we talked about was that each week in the playoffs, each week that you go on, games get harder and teams get tougher,” he said.
Three weeks into the playoffs and 13 weeks since the start of the regular season, Garden Grove is about to play its hardest game. But then there is no tougher team than the Argonauts.