By Robert Haleblian
The La Salle High School varsity football team’s overall record is back at .500 after defeating host John Muir High, 21-20, in a nonleague nail-biter last Friday.
Riding high off of stellar performances from freshman quarterback C.J. Montes, La Salle’s offense was firing on all cylinders. The young standout threw three touchdowns and finished just shy of 200 yards passing to help the Lancers improve to 2-2 on the season.
“[Montes] is special,” said LSHS head coach Russell Gordon. “He’s smart [and] he’s a great student. I believe everything starts in the classroom, and then it comes out to the field. He represents our school very, very proudly.”
La Salle athletic director Anthony Harris echoed Gordon’s thoughts on the young quarterback.
“He’s learning every week, and the sky’s the limit for him,” Harris said. “The thing I really think is special about him is that the players around him really trust him.”
The Lancer defense had the Mustangs’ passing game on lockdown, allowing a little over 150 passing yards. However, Muir’s success came on the ground, including a rushing touchdown with 1:51 left in the game to cut the deficit to 21-20.
Rather than send the game to overtime, the Mustangs opted to run the ball up the middle, as they had all game, for the 2-point conversion and lead. However, La Salle’s defense was up to the task and stuffed the Muir running back at the goal line, effectively ending the game.
“We watched so much film on Muir and practiced their plays every single day in practice,” said senior defensive lineman Andres Garcia. “So we just stuffed up the holes.”
Despite the thrilling victory, the Lancers made several mental mistakes and were hit with 145 penalty yards on offense and defense. Gordon said he wasn’t “happy with our cleanliness of the game as far as execution and penalties. I don’t think we capitalized on anything. I think we came out with a game plan, stuck to it, [but] we had some problems with penalties ourselves.”
However, Harris was quick to defend his head coach and is confident the team will correct its mistakes.
“I’ve worked with Gordon for 20-plus years,” he said, “and I’ve seen him mature as a coach over time. He’s one of the best coaches around right now. There’s not a situation that he’s been put in that he can’t control. He did exactly what I thought he would do. He kept his kids composed towards the end of the game and got it done.”
Going forward, La Salle will continue to be defined by the play of flourishing Montes.
“I’m not proud; I’m grateful to have C.J.,” Garcia said of his teammate.
Montes’ stellar play recently garnered attention on social media from rap artist Snoop Dogg and former Laker Shaquille O’Neal.
“We’ve had some pretty good quarterbacks, but when you take about potential and a freshman coming in and making some big plays like he is, the sky’s the limit for him,” Harris said.
The Lancers will host Notre Dame Prep of Arizona in a nonleague contest this Friday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m.