Garden Grove's Jordan Antunez

Albano notes: Garden Grove won't give up title without a fight


A defending champion with extra motivation can be a potent combination.

Garden Grove’s football team showed that last week as it opened defense of its CIF-SS Southern Division title with a 56-6 victory against El Dorado, a member of a certain league the Argonauts have noticed.

“(There’s been a) lot of spotlight on that North Hills League, but that’s good. They deserve it with some of their wins,” Garden Grove coach Ricardo Cepeda said.

“(But) until someone beats us, we’re the defending champions, right? … Our kids wanted to send a message.”

The victory also sent top-seeded Garden Grove (9-2) into Friday’s second-round game at Santa Ana Valley (5-5-1). North Hills teams Canyon, El Modena and Brea Olinda also are alive.

The Argonauts haven’t lost since playing at Roosevelt of Eastvale - a memeber of the Pac-5 Division - on Oct. 2. They played the game without star running back Jordan Antunez, who has rushed this season for 1,973 yards on 187 carries (10.6 yards per carry).

But it was Garden Grove’s season-opening loss to Westminster that drew the most attention.

“We lost to Westminster and everybody thought we were kind of weak,” Cepeda said. “We’re a lot better football team (now).”

Cepeda said offensive line play is an area where the Argonauts have improved. Garden Grove returned only one offensive lineman from its Southern Division championship squad, but a group of two sophomores, two juniors and a senior have grown up on the job.

The group is young but massive. The starters are sophomore left tackle Lau Gauta (6-6, 280), sophomore left guard Nathan Tran (5-10, 285), senior center Christopher Barrett (6-1, 260), junior right guard Anthony Marmolejo (6-1, 245) and junior right tackle Darice Tavita (6-4, 285).

Gauta is the brother of former Loara standout, Howard Gauta.

“Our offensive line has improved so much,” Cepeda said. “And we’re a lot bigger than last year, so we’re pretty physical. … Jordan (also) makes a lot of dudes miss. He’s pretty special.”

The ground attack has softened the impact of injuries at quarterback. Last week against El Dorado, Joseph Camarillo became the fourth player to start at quarterback for the Argonauts.

Santa Ana Valley also started the season slowly but went 4-1 in the Orange League, losing to Southern Division No. 2 seed and undefeated Katella, 8-6.

“They’ve gotten a lot better,” Cepeda said the Falcons. “We’re pretty similar type teams.”


Edison coach Dave White, who completed his 30th season Friday with a playoff loss to Rancho Cucamonga, will make the 2016 season his final one as the Chargers’ head coach.

White, who played at Edison, said he also will retire in June of 2017 from teaching at Edison.

He then hopes to watch his son, Garrett, play football at Yale and perhaps coach at Edison on a part-time basis.

White said he informed the Edison administration of his decision. He guided the Chargers to four CIF finals, winning the Southwest Division in 2012, and 13 Sunset League titles.

Edison and the Sunset League are a combined 0-6 in the West Valley Division playoff games the past two seasons.

“It looks like we can’t compete in that division,” White said.

Los Alamitos coach John Barnes said that as of Monday, he expects to be coaching the Griffins next fall.

“I’m still coaching, as far as I know,” he said.


Game of the week: Valencia-Villa Park at El Modena in a dual of 11-0 teams Friday in the Southwest Division. … If there was an award for two-way player of the week, Orange Lutheran junior safety/running back Brandon McKinney would have been the pick. He rushed for 121 yards last week in a victory at St. Bonaventure of Ventura and also racked up 14 total tackles, recovered a fumble and recorded a pass deflection. … La Habra has posted three consecutive shutouts and hasn’t allowed a point in 13 consecutive quarters. … Trabuco Hills kicker/punter Joel Velazquez has committed to Boise State. … Capistrano Valley receiver Mitchell Nickovich will make an unofficial recruiting trip to San Diego on Nov. 21.

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