By Jacob Wilson/Garden Grove Journal
Garden Grove’s season to remember is over. But for the team, the ending will be hard to forget.
The Argonauts lost 49-27 to the La Mirada Matadores in the CIF Southern Section Southern Division football Finals. The Argonauts finish the year at 13-1 and are CIF finalists for the first time in school history.
“We started the season with a big loss but we were able to fight through that and come back and have a great season,“ Garden Grove head coach Joe Hay said. “We have great players but we just came up short.”
“I’m extremely proud of these guys,” he added. “Every single one of them.”
The Argonauts led 21-7 in the second quarter but played the last 35 plus minutes of game time without offensive leader Sean Young, who left with a rib injury one play into the second quarter. Defensive standouts Zach Huff and Stephen Meredith missed the entire game.
Strong defense led to points early on. La Mirada blocked a punt and turned it into seven points on J. T. Torres’s seven-yard run. Later in the quarter Argonaut defensive back Joaquin Reynoso intercepted a tipped pass from La Mirada quarterback Daniel Poncedeleon.
The Argonauts ran with the momentum. Young gained 18 yards to move the Argonauts past midfield. Josh Sepulveda followed with a 45-yard run to the three.
After a La Mirada penalty, Young scored on a two-yard sneak to tie the score with 5:25 left in the first.
Momentum stayed with the Argonauts a while longer. Linebacker Joe Taufette sacked Poncedeleon on third down and the Matadores third drive ended with their first punt.
The Argonauts tried to catch the Matadores off guard with a trick play. Sepulveda took the pitch from Young but instead of running he stopped and fired a backward pass back to Young who unleashed a bomb downfield. But the pass was broken up by the Matadores.
La Mirada stopped Sepulveda for a one-yard loss on the next play. The Argonauts faced third and 11 and needed a big play. They got one.
Young found Josh Webb about 15 yards downfield. Enough for the first down but not enough for Webb. The junior evaded a tackle and turned on the jets, scoring on a 60-yard pass play to give the Argonauts a 14-7 lead with 2:11 left in the first.
Moments later, Taufette came up big again. The senior knocked the ball out of Torres’s hands. Christian Trejo pounced on it and the Argonauts took over in La Mirada territory.
Starting at the 31, Garden Grove ran twice, getting five yards from Avery Williams and another six from Young to set up first and 10 as the first quarter ended. Young opened the second with a four-yard run but La Mirada’s defender pulled him down by the facemask.
The penalty gave the Argonauts another eight yards but it also knocked Young out of the game. For the next play the Argonauts lined up in a wildcat formation. Sepulveda took a direct snap and scored on an eight-yard run to the outside.
With 11:48 left in the half Garden Grove led 21-7. But with Young out, the Argonauts would need to rely on a defense already without two of its best players.
The defense stepped up at first. On La Mirada’s next drive Poncedeleon threw three straight incompletions.
The Argonauts took over and went nowhere, literally. The offense lost one net yard, its only big gains coming on a roughing the kicker penalty and a 15-yard run by Sepulvedaon third and 33.
The Matadores took over at midfield and took their time, marching 53 yards in over five minutes. Max Gama capped the seven-play drive with a 29-yard touchdown. At halftime Grove led 21-14.
La Mirada tied the game in the third after a 13-play, 67-yard drive that chewed up five and a half minutes of clock. Torres finished off the drive with a six-yard run.
With their lead now gone and their offensive leader at a local hospital, the Argonauts needed to get their offense in gear. But a holding call on first down pushed them back 10 yards.
The Argonauts got those yards back on a pass from sophomore quarterback Dallas Schuetz to Williams. On second and 10 Schuetz found tight end Jacob Smith for another seven yards. The two passes were the first consecutive completions of the night for the Argonauts.
Facing a crucial third and three, the Argonauts went away from the pass. The result was a seven-yard loss. The Argonauts had to punt.
Ralph Gramajo returned the ball 21 yards to the Argonaut 34. Two plays and 45 seconds later, the Matadores led for the first time since early in the first quarter.
La Mirada put the game away with defense. Shane Blood intercepted an Argonaut pass and returned it 13 yards for the score and a 35-21 lead. The Matadores added two more touchdowns.
Torres scored for the third time on a 52-yard run. Troy Glover added a four-yard touchdown. In a possible preview of next year, Schuetz and junior wide receiver Tyren Anderson connected on an 18-yard touchdown pass with just over a minute left in the game.