Long Beach City College ended the 2022 season with a 35-28 loss against rivals Cerritos College, and needless to say, that game has been on the Vikings’ minds ever since.
On a cloudy and rainy Saturday evening at Veterans Memorial Stadium, LBCC cleared that memory from their minds with a 30-14 win over the visiting Falcons, scoring the final 23 points of the game to run away with the victory.
Special teams and defense made the difference for the Vikings, who recovered a fumble on a punt and on a kickoff, returned a partially blocked punt for a touchdown, and held the visitors scoreless for the entire second half. The stop unit had 10 tackles for loss, two sacks, and an interception by J’vyion Curry.
“I thought the defense was exceptional,” said LBCC head coach Brett Peabody. “Overall, they didn’t give them a whole heck of a lot. I love the way they swarmed the ball, I like the way they got pressure on the quarterback, and really, for the most part, dominated the run game.”
Long Beach allowed Cerritos to gain just 1.6 yards per carry on the ground, thanks in large part to sophomore Luke Toomalatai, who Peabody believes is the best defensive lineman in the country at the junior college level.
The Vikings certainly enjoyed Saturday’s win–their third in a row to improve their record to 3-2 overall–but something was missing from the postgame celebration. More specifically, the Crosstown Cup, which has been a staple at each game between these two local rivals. But not on Saturday, as Cerritos did not bring the trophy with them to the game, a point that Coach Peabody was sure to bring up after the win.
“I think it’s awful that they didn’t bring the cup,” said Peabody. “And I don’t put it on the head coach. Their AD didn’t even show up to the game and I guess it was locked in her office or something, and that’s really lame. We waited for this game for a year. And we had to sit there and sit through their trophy presentation ceremony last year. And the fact that we don’t get to celebrate with the cup and have selfie time is really unfortunate. And we won’t forget it.”
LBCC started the game with a terrific scoring drive, going 84 yards in 14 plays to take a 7-0 lead. QB Will Madonna (27/54, 374 yards, 3 TDs) went 7-for-8 on that opening drive, capping it off with a 6-yard TD toss to Matthew Berenji in the back of the end zone.
Those two would link up again 22 seconds before halftime for a 31-yard TD strike, set up by Noah Mallon’s fumble recovery on a muffed punt. On the night, Berenji had 7 catches for 97 yards and those two scores.
Their second TD connection tied the score at 14-14, after Cerritos was able to take the lead late in the second quarter. A Madonna pass that went through his receiver’s hands was picked off by Tyler Henry to set the Falcons up on a short porch. Then later in the quarter a guy named Porch–first name Gavin–caught a nine-yard TD pass to put the road team up 14-7. They wouldn’t score again.
The Falcons fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half and that mostly summed up the rest of their night. LBCC turned that miscue into a 37-yard field goal from Ethan Smithlin for a 17-14 lead.
After the next Cerritos drive stalled, Kyle Miller got his hand in on a punt, partially blocking the kick which fell to Jalen Johnson all alone near midfield. The linebacker broke to his right and found plenty of open turf, racing all the way for a touchdown on the “Tip 6” to give his team a 24-14 advantage.
Madonna capped the scoring later in the third as he found a wide open Cieonta Davis for a 23-yard touchdown.
The sophomore signal-caller connected with 11 different receivers in Saturday’s win, but there was still room for improvement for the Vikings offense as they missed some opportunities and became too one-dimensional for Coach Peabody’s liking. LBCC ran for just 63 yards on 23 attempts in Saturday’s win.
“We throw the ball as well as anybody,” said Peabody. “But at the same time, we have got to find more of a run game. Because I’m not happy with how we’re running the ball so far this year.”
LBCC will be on their bye next week and will be back at Vets to host East LA College on Oct. 14.