By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
The journey of the Garden Grove High School football team from tragedy to history is poised just one big step away from its conclusion.
Riding a wave of tough play, smart coaching, fan support and perhaps destiny, the Argonauts (13-0) will take on La Mirada High (12-1) Friday at 7:30 p.m. at LeBard Stadium on the Orange Coast College campus for the CIF/SS Southern Division title.
Arriving at the finals makes school history; since GGHS opened no Argo football team has ever advanced so far. Beating the Matadores would make Grove only the second Garden Grove League team to ever win a CIF football crown. The only other was Bolsa Grande in 1986.
But the road to the title, which started with the tragic death of Kevin Telles in the opening game against Westminster, wound last week through Norwalk in a game many people did not expect the Argos to win.
Rallying from a 10-point third quarter deficit, the Argos roared back with four touchdowns to defeat Norwalk 35-23 Saturday night in the CIF/SS Southern Division football semifinals.
The Argonauts led 7-3 at halftime, but trailed 17-7 late in the game. Grove was up against a penalty-plagued Lancer team (11-2) which boasted a powerful running attack.
Norwalk was led by Elijaa Penny, a 6-foot, 4-inch 240-lb. running back who simply bowled people over. The Argos resorted to gang-tackling to bring him down, and Penny would finish with 229 yards and two TDs.
Grove closed to within three on Sean Young’s keeper at 4:14 of the third quarter, capping an eight-play drive abetted by a pass interference call against Norwalk.
The Argonauts would take the lead for good with 49 seconds left in the quarter when junior defensive back Jesse Lozano picked up a fumble on a bounce and raced 63 yards for a touchdown.
“The play by Jesse was huge,” said Argo coach Joe Hay. It seemed to let the air out of the home team, at least for a bit.
The Argonauts proceeded to further stun the Lancers with two more big plays: a 46-yard scoring ramble by Josh Sepulveda, followed by a 50-yard scoring dash by the same number 25 that gave Grove a 35-17 lead.
Norwalk closed the gap to 12 with 2:33 to play, but the Argos were able to drive to the Lancer 20 and run out the clock for the historic win.
“These guys did everything we asked of them, and more,” said Hay after the victory. “They played above their level tonight. I just can’t say enough about them.”
If the Argos win Friday, Hay and others will have much more to say about the boys from Stanford Avenue. But either way, it’s history in the making.