By Craig Stites/Garden Grove Journal
For the second consecutive year Garden Grove will play in the CIF final for a chance to be the Southern Division champions. With a 35-21 victory over the Northwood, the Argonauts are prepared to accomplish the goal they set for themselves before the season.
After losing to La Mirada in the final last year 49-21, Garden Grove has been determined to not only make it to the championship game, but win.
“We want to go back and win it, that’s been our goal from the beginning,” Garden Grove head coach Willy Puga said following the victory. “So, just getting there, we’re not satisfied. We had a great week of practice this week, I think we’re going to have our best week next week. They’ve been there, they know what it means to come up short.”
The game was very much a reversal from their prior game against Woodbridge, in that passing and defense reigned supreme. Although one thing that has remained constant all season for Garden Grove held true, Josh Webb dominated.
Webb finished with 218 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries, had five receptions for 117 yards and one touchdown and completed 4 of 7 passes for 79 yards and one touchdown. He also contributed as a defender, breaking up several Northwood pass attempts.
It was not all easy for the Argonauts though, as they had to fight through some adversity early in the game. Garden Grove was stopped on 4th down for a turnover on downs on their own 48 yard line, giving Northwood the ball in Argo territory less than three minutes into the game. Northwood wasted no time, scoring less than two minutes later after a six play, 49 yard drive that finished with a Kevin Fiege rushing touchdown.
Garden Grove bounced back from the early setback with twenty unanswered points. A four yard touchdown rush from Josh Webb followed by two touchdown receptions by receiver Avery Williams, one each from passers Webb and Jovani Duran, gave the Argonauts a 13 point lead late in the second quarter.
However, Northwood managed to put together a four play, 68 yard drive that finished with a Reed Gubernick touchdown reception, cutting the lead to six just before the half. A 52 yard touchdown reception by Alex King on the first play from scrimmage in the second half gave Northwood a one point lead with 11:35 left in the 3rd quarter.
The Argonauts responded with a big play of their own when Webb hauled in a 67 yard touchdown reception from Duran. With 2:07 left in the 3rd quarter Webb helped extend the lead to 14 with a 32 yard rushing touchdown followed by a two yard reception from Duran for a two point conversion.
From that point forward Garden Grove was led by a defense that can only be described as dominant. While the Argonaut offense uncharacteristically struggled to take care of the ball late in the game, fumbling twice in the backfield, the defense didn’t allow another point to be scored.
The Garden Grove defense stopped the Northwood offense to a turnover on downs on four consecutive drives to seal the victory.
“They settled down and played outstanding defense, one of our best games all year against a good offense,” Puga said. “We didn’t take care of the ball at the end and they bailed us out twice on those fourth downs when we turned the ball over trying to run the clock out. They’re unsung though, a lot of recognition goes to the offense because of the points scored. Defensively, they get eleven hats on the ball. It’s a really unified group.”
With the victory, the Argonauts advance to the finals to face the Beckman Patriots of the Pacific Coast League on Friday at Orange Coast College . Garden Grove has not faced Beckman this season, but they have had some mutual opponents. Beckman lost to Northwood 17-0 and lost to Woodbridge 42-17.
After the victory Jovani Duran shed some light on what the Argonauts will need to do to accomplish the goal they’ve been after all season, “Come out with the mentality that we’re going to win.”