‘Cardiac Kids’ win playoff nailbiter vs. Cerritos, 42-41

Another last minute drive puts Colton in the second round of the CIF playoff as the team rallies from a 28-0 deficit to win


Annaleigha Garcia

Colton’s Yellowjacket football team celebrates its first playoff victory in 12 years with a victory over Cerritos High, 42-41 on Nov. 4.

Updated: Sunday, Nov. 6 at 8:10 a.m.

Cerritos, CA—For the third consecutive week, the Colton Yellowjackets found themselves on the brink of a loss. This week, the stakes were the highest they’ve been all season—round 1 of the CIF Playoffs against Cerritos High School.

And for the third consecutive week, the Yellowjackets prevailed in the last minute of the game. This time it was on a 27-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Gabriel Aparicio to receiver Xavier Sandoval that brought Colton within one point, 41-40. Then, running back Damian Sanchez, who struggled all night against the Dons’ defense, punched through their front line for the two-point conversion that sealed the victory, 42-41.

“They’re just the Cardiac Kids,” said defensive coordinator Myley Herrera after the game. “They always come back. We always get punched in the mouth three or four times, and just like with that Colton grit they fight back and refuse to lose.”

This team refused to lose last night. After a nightmarish first 15 minutes, they were down 28-0. Cerritos put up 22 points in the first quarter, behind a punishing run attack featuring 6’1 sophomore Kalib Moran, who ran for 65 yards and a touchdown. He would finish with 250 total yards and 2 touchdowns, the most impressive of which was a late game 45-yard run that almost took the spirit out of the Yellowjackets.

It was a spirit that could not be snuffed in this game. After struggling in the first quarter with only 7 yards passing and an interception, Aparicio found his footing and his favorite target, Xavier Sandoval. The two connected on 3 touchdowns in the second quarter, including a 45-yard grenade at the 8:53 mark and an 89-yard bomb with 2:31 remaining, which put Colton only down by 8 at the half, 28-20.

The third quarter was a stalemate, with each side grinding out one possession each, but Cerritos scratched first in the second half, finishing their first drive at the top of the fourth on a 15-yard touchdown pass from QB Jake Bautista to receiver Alex Martinez to go up 34-20.

Colton scored on its next possession. Aparicio found multiple targets in Sandoval, sophomore receiver Cesar Loera, and senior running back Nathaniel Martinez. They marched from their own 29 yard line, with Aparicio sprinting into the end zone on fourth-and-three to narrow the deficit, 34-26.

Despite recovering their onside kick on the following kickoff, the Yellowjackets couldn’t get another score on their next possession. The Dons’ defense, combined with a couple untimely penalties froze them at the Cerritos 41.

Then Cerritos’ Moran scored on his 45-yard run, but it would be the team’s last.

Colton found another gear midway through the fourth quarter. Aparicio took over, hitting receivers for solid gains and taking to the run as the Dons’ defense played off him. This setup Martinez for a touchdown from the 2-yard line to put Colton within striking distance again, 41-34.

Then the defense did some of their best work of the season, giving up only 5 yards to the Dons on their next possession.

This gave the Yellowjackets the ball with 54 seconds remaining in the game, and possibly their season.

Aparicio and Sandoval refused to let that be the outcome. Their touchdown with Sanchez’s tough two-point conversion only left  26 seconds on the clock.

Cerritos got the ball at their own 20, and managed to secure a first down with 7 seconds left, but the Colton defense on the final play forced the Dons to try an illegal forward lateral pass that got flagged, ending the game with a Yellowjacket victory.

Players, coaches, families, and friends stormed the field, as the Colton faithful packed the stands at Gahr High School, where Cerritos plays their home games.

After the game, an exhausted Aparicio couldn’t stop smiling as he basked in his first playoff win. “I’m just so proud of our team for being down 28—not a lot of teams could fight through adversity like this, you know? And they showed the difference from last year to this year how much heart we got.”

Sandoval attributed the victory to faith in themselves and each other. “I feel like we deserve this, man,” he said. “Once I knew it was 28-0, I knew that something was gonna switch.”

This playoff victory marks the school’s first since 2010, when the Yellowjacket team, led by Tyler Ervin, Rodney Hardrick, and Jordan Mixon, brought home the CIF Southern Section Championship.

Next Friday, November 11, Colton will face Bishop Montgomery in the CIF Divisional Quarterfinal. Game time is 7 p.m. at Colton High.