The fans were back, the cheerleaders were cheering and the band had returned as Glendale High School traveled to La Cañada on Thursday evening.
The Nitros, who came in looking for its first win after dropping their season opener last week, were outplayed by the host Spartans in the first half, but finished strong in the 58-21 La Cañada victory in a nonleague game.
“It was a slow start. We wanted to play defense better. In the first half we didn’t tackle well,” Glendale coach Jacob Ochoa said. “We’re trying to build. We talked to them at halftime and told them just to go out there and have some fun. I wanted to see smiles and play some football because it’s been a hard, rough road for Glendale football.”
The score was 51-6 at halftime, resulting in a running clock for the entire second half, but the Nitros kept playing hard after the break.
The visiting Nitros had all 15 of the points scored in the fourth quarter. With 11:09 left in the contest, Nitro Dennis Perez scored from eight yards out, running the ball into the end zone and dragging several Spartan defenders in with him. Perez then kicked the ensuing PAT attempt successfully through the uprights.
With 1:31 to go, Perez struck again with a 20-yard rushing touchdown, his third of the game.
“I thought we played well in the second half,” Ochoa said. “I think that is a glimpse of what we are capable of.”
Playing with palpable joy throughout, Perez had a standout game, finishing with 89 yards on 12 carries and three touchdowns for Glendale. The senior also had two catches for 18 yards.
Nitro Keirson Florita, who played numerous positions, had 12 carries for 83 yards, went two of eight passing for 49 yards and had three catches for 50 yards. Jonathan Anaya was six of seven through the air for 51 yards.
The Spartans took the opening kickoff and drove 56 yards in four plays to start the scoring. Corey Cheung finished the drive with a 11-yard touchdown run with 11:00 left in the first.
La Cañada (1-0 record) would go on to score the first eight times it had possession, including all seven of their possessions in the first half.
Down 31-0 after the opening period, Glendale put together an extended drive to get on the board early in the second. Perez scored from seven yards out on a bruising run for six points. Earlier in the drive, Florita made an athletic catch on a deep ball for 37 yards.
La Cañada answered, scoring the final 20 points of the half.
This season, Glendale will play a 10-game freelance schedule, but will still finish the campaign in the traditional manner against rival Hoover.
“I expect us to get better game after game, week after week,” Ochoa said. “It’s our first time we are not in the Pacific League. We get to play a freelance schedule against opponents we know, that we played against, or that we have some familiarity with, even the coaches. It will be local area teams and it should be fun.”
Participation is also on the upturn.
“Our numbers are growing,” Ochoa said. “I think we’re up to 50 players, which hasn’t happened in Glendale for quite awhile.”
The Nitros also will aim to make this season into more than just wins and losses.
“At the end of the day, we are building for next year and beyond. We want to try to build this program into a respectable program and a good football team,” Ochoa said.