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Montebello Plays Bell Gardens In Key Almont League Game

Montebello High School will be looking to celebrate more than just their annual homecoming Friday night, as the Oilers take on Bell Gardens in a game that could determine the Almont League football title.

The Oilers and Lancers each scored emotional victories last week to improve to 2-0 in league play and set up a key showdown between the longtime Montebello Unified School District rivals. The winner takes over sole possession of first place with two games remaining.

Montebello High School running back Marcos Portillo rips off a gain in last Friday’s game against San Gabriel. (EGP Photo by Mario Villegas)

Montebello outlasted San Gabriel, 48-41 in overtime last Friday, while Bell Gardens held off Schurr, 27-24, to each improve to 5-2 overall.

“We’re in for a big fight,” Montebello Coach Pete Gonzalez said about Friday’s game. “Bell Gardens is as physical as any team we’ve played this year that is hard-nosed and well-coached, and will be well prepared for us.”

With a victory, Montebello takes a major step toward winning its first Almont League title since 2002.

The Oilers are led by running back Marcos Portillo, who has rushed for 610 yards and 11 touchdowns. The senior had 140 yards in 28 carries against San Gabriel last week and caught three passes for 28 yards.

Quarterback Matt Saenz also had a big night for Montebello as the senior completed 18 of 33 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns.

But it was fullback Jordan Fowlkes scoring on a three-yard touchdown run in overtime that proved to be the difference as Montebello defeated San Gabriel in a game that took 3½ hours to play. It was Fowlkes’ third touchdown in a game in which the junior had 37 yards in 11 carries.

After Fowlkes’ score, the Oilers stopped San Gabriel (1-6, 0-2) on downs.

Trailing 41-33, Montebello tied the score with 1:30 to play on Gilbert Herrera’s 34-yard touchdown reception from Saenz. Saenz then connected with Manuel Juarez on a two-point conversion attempt to even the score and force overtime.

Herrera finished the game with six receptions for 132 yards. Edgar Gonzalez added three receptions for 43 yards.

Defensively, Montebello is led by a linebacker unit that Gonzalez says is the soul of the defense. Junior Ramiro Arreola had nine solo tackles against San Gabriel. Jorge Jabonero and Fowlkes are the other starting linebackers.

Bell Gardens’ 27-24 victory over Schurr last Friday was the Lancers first against their other district rival since 2002.

Tailback Jorge Remigio led the way with four touchdowns, scoring on runs of two, three, 50 and three yards. The senior rushed for 150 yards in 21 carries and now has 635 yards and nine touchdowns in his last four games.

Quarterback Charles Ontiveros passed for 128 yards by completing six of 13 passes.

The Lancers are going to need another big night from Remigio at Montebello Friday.

“Montebello has a very solid defense and it’s going to be a challenge to get points on them,” Bell Gardens Coach Dave Ramos said. “They’re also going to be tough to defend against because they can run and pass the ball.”

Bell Gardens is young on defense with six sophomore starters. “We’re a classic bend but don’t break defense,” Ramos said, adding that the team’s defensive strength is at linebacker and in the secondary.

Senior outside linebacker Chris Mendoza is the leader of the linebacker unit, which also has junior Adam Alvarado in the middle and sophomore Eric Galicia on the outside. The secondary has sophomores Gerardo Coronel and Manny Contreras at the corners, and sophomores Justin Galvan and Jordan Preciado at safeties.