With the game in jeopardy, down 22-10 against Cerritos College at the 16-yard-line of the Falcons side in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-7 with less than 22 seconds remaining, only a prayer could lift this team to victory. Quarterback Kade Wentz rolled out of the shotgun spread formation facing pressure from his left and sprinted to his right, slipped a tackle and directed his receiver with a hand motion. Wentz threw an absolute dart on the run to a leaping receiver that dropped the football after being punished by a Falcons defender.
A celebrating Falcons defense high-fived and hip-bumped each other exiting the field while Wentz trudged over to the sideline like a car headed to the chop shop, helmet parallel to the turf as he endured the pats on the back of his shoulder pads by teammates and coaches. Cerritos College defeated the Lancers in their first game since December 2019.
“I was a little bummed out at first because it obviously wasn’t the result that we wanted,” Wentz said. “But after looking at the tape a few times, I saw things that we can definitely improve on and I saw a lot of bright spots that I didn’t see originally.”
In the first quarter, the Lancers were up 3-0 and had a small but comfortable lead. But the Falcons managed to punt the ball at the Lancers 1-yard-line. In less than a minute, a false start, safety, punt return, and run changed the entire momentum of the game. Even through the defeat head coach Tucker was still proud of his team.
“They have a lot of heart,” Tucker said. “I knew before that these were good people who actually cared about each other and they battled. I understand that there’s no quit in them. And they could have tanked it and they never did. They played to the last whistle and I was really proud of them.”
The Lancers never quit, but they never stopped turning the ball over. Both of the Lancers’ two quarterback-system were responsible for interceptions. Wentz, who had more down the field throws, threw two interceptions. Most of Edward Norton’s plays were designed runs, but there were times he had to throw the football because they weren’t having a lot of success running the football. Norton threw one interception and almost had a second if the defender hadn’t dropped it.
“It was all right, just felt good to be back,” Norton said responding to his performance. “I would like to make better reads. A lot of bad reads. I was just excited to be out there, so I was a little anxious.”
Turnovers weren’t the only issues facing the Lancers Saturday night. One issue that could remain constant as the season progresses is tackling. Coach Tucker acknowledged that his team hasn’t had to tackle any opponents in 18 months. This was evident Saturday night when the Lancers gave up 5.2 yards per carry to the Falcons.
In a spread formation, the Falcons caught the Lancers off guard on 3rd down and 8 yards to go in the later stages of the fourth quarter. A delayed handoff resulted in the first down, but the Falcons ball carrier decided to go toe-to-toe with a Lancers defender instead of running out of bounds, knocking him backwards before being gang tackled by the defense.
“Stopping the run is a team deal,” Tucker said. “A lot of our things came back to missed tackles. “They had 100 yards after missed tackles. So, it’s not really a D-line thing. Those missed tackles came from all three levels. So we gave up 105 yards after contact from missed tackles. We had a 70% tackling efficiency rating for the game. We feel that we need to be at 80% and above. That’s just doing research over the years, but we have to be over 80% if we want to win games.”
The Lancers have an opportunity to redeem themselves Saturday, September 11 at 6 p.m. as they face L.A. Valley College. Although the game will be at Robinson Stadium, no fans will be allowed to sit in the bleachers due to COVID-19. The game can be viewed live stream via SportsNet USA.
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