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Difference of 4 Miles, 3 Points : Los Alamitos Gains 17-14 Victory Over Geographical Rival

Times Staff Writer

Friday’s CIF Southern Conference playoff game between Los Alamitos and Cerritos high schools marked the teams’ first meeting--despite the fact they are located just four miles apart.

That was obvious by the fact the announcer at Hanford Rant Stadium at Gahr High School told the 2,900 spectators that some Cerritos fans were wondering just what their opponents’ mascot, the Griffin, actually consisted of.

After Los Alamitos’ 17-14 victory, it’s not likely the Cerritos supporters will have to ask again about Los Alamitos’ mythological eagle-lion hybrid.

“It’s over. Turn the lights off,” said Don Coach Wayne Manzo afterward. Cerritos (7-4) had not been to the playoffs since 1977, and the team was hoping to qualify for the second round for the first time.

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Of course, Los Alamitos (10-1), the Empire League co-champion, has only had slightly better luck in that department. The Griffins went to the playoffs last year, but lost in the first round to El Toro. Friday’s victory means they will compete in the second round for the first time in eight years.

Their next opponent is El Toro, however.

Cerritos gained more yardage in the first half (226 yards) than the Griffins would manage in the entire game (222 yards). But the Dons’ offensive spark, tailback Andre Wooten left the game early in the third quarter with a bone bruise on the bottom of his foot.

By no coincidence, Cerritos was holding a tenuous 7-3 lead at that point on a 75-yard breakaway touchdown by Wooten in the first quarter. But when he was forced to consign his 182 yards rushing to the sidelines, Los Alamitos jumped at the chance to take its first lead of the game on its next drive.

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The Griffins moved 63 yards on seven plays, the largest gains coming on receptions by Robby Katzaroff from quarterback J.T. Snow.

At the end of the drive, Katzaroff caught his ninth pass of the game to tie the all-time Orange County single season receiving record of 81 set by Fullerton’s David Sepulveda last season.

Los Alamitos tailback Pat Brown, who gained 70 yards on 16 carries, then scored by catching the only Snow pass of the game to go to someone other than Katzaroff. It was a seven-yard touchdown that, along with Katzaroff’s kick, gave the Griffins a 10-7 lead with 40 seconds left in the third quarter.

Katzaroff, who finished the game with 11 catches for 144 yards, earned the county receiving record on a seven-yard reception later in the third quarter.

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He also accounted for 11 of the Griffins’ points Friday by kicking a 36-yard field goal in the second quarter, catching an 18-yard pass for a 17-7 lead in the fourth quarter and kicking both extra points. He leads Orange County in scoring with 150 points.

Snow finished the game with 12 completions in 23 attempts for 151 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

“I can’t believe these guys,” Los Alamitos Coach John Barnes said. “They (Cerritos) were a pretty physical football team and they were kicking the heck out of us in the first half. We got pounded.”

In the first half, the Griffins had 88 yards of offense, including only five on the ground, thanks to some excellent defense by Cerritos guard Scott Mulhearn and linebacker Paul Mojica.

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“But in the second half, all of a sudden, we got fired up and scored in a hurry,” Barnes said. “I can’t believe how fast we can score points once we get going.”


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