Football: Falcons selected to play in Beach Bowl

Falcons to play Ventura College in Beach Bowl
Falcons to play Ventura College in Beach Bowl

After a 6-4 regular season where the Cerritos College football team finished in a tie for second place in the National Division Central Conference, they have been selected to play in a post-season bowl game. The Falcons will be traveling to Ventura College next Saturday to play in the Beach Bowl with a 6:00 p.m. kickoff. This marks the 27th bowl appearance in school history and second year in a row for head coach Dean Grosfeld.

The Pirates finished in a three-way tie for first place in the National Division Northern Conference and have an 8-2 record. This will be the first meeting between the two teams since a 44-34 Pirates win in 2017, while the Falcons hold a 10-5 lifetime series advantage.

The two teams have averaged similar numbers on offense and defense, with Cerritos entering the game averaging 37.5 points a game, with Ventura putting 39.4 points on the board each game. On defense, the Falcons have given up an average of 30.7, with the Pirates allowing 31.1 points a game.

Individually, freshman quarterback TJ McMahon (Servite HS) has completed 177-of-270 passes (65.5%) for 2,370 yards and 22 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He's only thrown picks in two games this season. He's third in the state with his completion percentage, while his 162.5 efficiency is fifth in the state. His two favorite receivers this season have been sophomores C.J. Parks (Mater Dei HS) and Jovohn Tucker (St. John Bosco HS). Parks, who broke the college's career reception record (90), has 57 receptions for 877 yards (15.4 avg.) and nine touchdowns, with Tucker pulling in 38 passes for 652 yards (172 avg.) and six touchdowns. Parks is sixth in the state with his total receiving yards.

On the ground, the trio of Carl Odom (West Jordan, UT HS), Hinckley Ropati (Downey HS) and Jacobi Hardy (Long Beach Wilson HS/El Camino College) have helped the Falcons rush for 1,630 yards and 24 touchdowns on the season. Odom leads the attack with 629 yard and eight TD's, while Ropati has accounted for 552 yards and seven touchdowns. Hardy (283 yards, 4 TDs) is also a kick return threat and has brought back 18 kickoffs for 594 yards and two touchdowns, including a 97-yarder against El Camino College in the last regular season game. Sophomore Brandon Jones (Heritage, VA HS), who has caught 19 passes for 226 yards, also also returned 11 kickoffs for 276 yards.

The Falcons also have a kicking threat, as freshman Brandon Petruescu (La Mirada HS) has converted 10-of-12 field goals and also made all three of his extra point attempts, along with averaging 36.2 yards per punt. Sophomore Paul Rodriguez (Troy HS) has been successful on 36-of-42 extra point attempts.

On defense, Cerritos had turned to a variety of players to help lead the way. As a team, the Falcons have 30 quarterback sacks and 79 tackles for loss, with freshman defensive end Logan Applewhite (Cathedral HS) leading the team in both categories with nine sacks and 20 tackles for loss. Freshman linebacker Victor Clanton (JSerra HS) leads the defense with 59 tackles, with Applewhite checking in with 47 stops, the same number turned in by sophomore linebacker Etieni Valele (Norwalk HS). A third member of the defensive line, sophomore Ikenna Ahumibe (Gahr HS), has 44 tackles and 7 1/2 tackles for loss, while freshman Cameron Minor (Mayfair HS) leads the secondary with 38 tackles, three pass breakups and a pair of forced fumbles.

With Ventura, they have been led by the signal calling duo of Dino Maldonado (129-for-205, 10 TDs) and Alaka'l Yuen (125-for-194, 10 TDs), who have thrown for a combined 3,001 yards. Terrell Vaughn is one of the top receivers in the state and has pulled in 83 passes for 924 yards and 11 touchdowns, with Mark Ferrell (33-449-4), Juan Gaytan (22-183-1), Chris Reaves (22-400-1) and Christian Lancelotti (20-220-0) all catching 20 or more passes. Yuen is also a threat with his legs and has rushed for 308 yards, with Jayden Vargas leading the team with 612 yards and eight TDs. Two other players have over 300 yards on the ground.

Kicker Alberto Arroyo has been perfect on extra points (49-for-49) and has added 17-of-22 field goals with a long of 47 yards. Chris Atkins is a kick return threat by averaging 22.5 yards on 23 kickoffs, while Reaves brought back a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown and has averaged 46.5 yards on his five returns.

Versatile defensive back Travis Calloway leads the team with 90 tackles, while Jalen Cooper has turned in 73 stops and broke up five passes. As a team, the Pirates have 12 players with 30 or more tackles, with defensive linemen Corey Owens and Jarrell Knight combining for 16.5 tackles for loss. Wes Anselum had picked off a team-high four passes and broken up 13 more.