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Dos Pueblos Defense Shines in 35-28 CIF Quarterfinal Win at Gahr

Chargers contain Gahr's star running back, build 28-0 lead, hold on to advance to semifinals

CERRITOS — When you have a stifling defense that has given up 115 points in 11 games going up against a running back that has amassed over 2,300 yards, something had to give.

Dos Pueblos’ defense held serve in the first half against Gahr in a CIF-SS Division 10 quarterfinal game, shutting down the Gladiators for nearly 28 and half minutes while building a 28-0 lead Friday night at Hanford Rants Stadium.

In the end, the big lead was just enough to send the second-seeded Chargers into the semifinals as they held on for a 35-28 victory.

Dos Pueblos (11-1) will host Valley View in a semifinal game next Friday at Scott O'Leary Stadium. Valley View defeated Garden Grove-Pacifica, 59-28.

"My personal goal since I’ve been the head coach is to practice Thanksgiving week, so I’m happy to finally get here," said DP coach Nate Mendoza.

The defense did the job for DP. It held highly touted Gahr running back Micah Bernard to a season-low 102 yards rushing on 20 carries. He ran for 305 yards last week. 

"That’s what we hang our hat on is our D. To hold him to 100 yards, that’s a huge success," Mendoza said.

The Chargers set the tone early and often, limiting Bernard to 65 yards on 14 carries in the first, with 44 yards coming on one run in the second quarter. He was held to negative yardage on four of his first half carries. 

On third and 8 from the Gahr 27-yard line on the opening possession of the game, Bernard was knocked back for a four-yard loss by Diego Cruz and Anthony Myers. The defense, which gave up 8 yards on 23 carries in the first half, forced Gahr to punt three times in the half and did not allow Gahr to cross midfield until Bernard’s long jaunt down the Dos Pueblos sideline.

In addition, Alijah Grant picked off E.J. Gonzalez in the end zone following Bernard’s longest run of the game to end the Gladiators' best scoring chance.  Gahr did not cross midfield for the remainder of the half.

Meanwhile, the DP offense was being paced by Rob Alfaro, who scored on a 5-yard run with 1:10 left in the first quarter and a 1-yard run with 83 seconds remaining in the first half. Erick Lopez added a 13-yard touchdown run just past the midway point of the second quarter as the Chargers held a 21-0 advantage at the break.

“I thought our guys did an amazing job containing (Bernard) in the first half,” said Mendoza. “He is a phenomenal athlete. We did a great job in the first half and, fortunately for us, we did enough in the second half with the two touchdowns.”

The lead ballooned to 28-0 on the first possession of the second half when quarterback Jake Ramirez found Cyrus Wallace open for a 36-yard score.

The turning point of the game as far as Gahr was concerned came when it recovered a muffed punt a minute later. The hosts turned that into a 40-yard scoring play from quarterback E.J. Gonzalez to Jake Frechette.

Then after holding the Chargers on downs, Bernard found the end zone on a 30-yard run with 2:23 left in the third quarter, cutting the lead to 28-14.

Dos Pueblos went up 35-14 with seven and a half minutes remaining in the contest as Ramirez sneaked in from two yards out.

Gahr would make it interesting with a 1-yard run from Bernard a little over two minutes later, then a 23-yard pass from Gonzalez to Frechette with 2:28 remaining.

“Things turned around in the middle of the third quarter when we forced a punt and it went off our leg,” Mendoza said. “It was a mental mistake and then we gave them life. They’re a very explosive team as you can see.”

“Coach Mendoza talks about fighting through adversity and we go through that every week,” Alfaro said. “Not just today, but we do a good job talking in the locker room at halftime and we do a good job of fixing our mistakes.”

The game was sealed when Grant picked off Gonzalez again, this time at the 9-yard line on the final play of the game.

Alfaro rushed for a game-high 105 yards on 27 carries while Ramirez completed 9 of 15 passes for 136 yards, with Wallace catching three of them for 45 yards. A banged-up Lopez finished with 62 yards on nine carries.

"(Lopez) was pretty banged up, so Rob really took a full load tonight and he just shined,” Mendoza said. 

“I can’t do it without my line,” Alfaro said. “They grind every week, every game, through 11 weeks now and I can’t do it without them.”

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