Franklin and Hector Ceballos are soaring again in Northern League

The only sell-out crowd near Arroyo Seco was Eagle Rock High on Friday night, where about 2,000 spectators gathered to watch one of Los Angeles’ longest-running high school football rivalries, Eagle Rock vs. Franklin. Two miles apart, the schools have met 77 times and this time they all went into the game undefeated.

The game proved to be another opportunity to see Franklin All-City wide receiver Hector Ceballos’ great pass-catching skills. Last season, he set a City Section record with 27 receptions in a game. It wasn’t a coincidence. He finds ways to intercept passes that defenders believe should be intercepted.

It happened three times on Friday where he walked over defenders to steal the ball. It resulted in a touchdown catch from 22 yards and two catches from 42 yards. Eagle Rock (6-1) never knew what to do against Ceballos as the Panthers headed for a win in their Northern League opener, leading 30-13 late in the fourth quarter as this issue of The Times went to press. Franklin’s defense also strengthened behind linebacker Brian Villareal.

Ceballos had 10 catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns. Starting quarterback Eduardo Cuevas passed for 210 yards. Backup quarterback Jonathan Velazquez had two touchdown passes and a touchdown run in the second half. At half time it was 7:7. Ceballos opened the third quarter with a 9-yard touchdown catch from Velazquez. Then the Panthers added a safety for a 16-7 lead. Ray Garcia caught a 15-yard touchdown pass to start the fourth quarter with a 23-7 lead.

The most relevant question is will a Friday night win be a reward or a curse? The winner faces the City Section Open Division playoffs and a likely undefeated regular season. The last Northern League team to go unbeaten in a regular season was Lincoln, who ended their 10-0 season in 2021 with a 52-0 loss in the opening playoffs to Lake Balboa Birmingham.

Neither school seems to have the players up front to take on Birmingham and San Pedro, but that doesn’t mean they won’t take up the challenge.

“We are the only team in our league to win an Open division game and we are excited for the opportunity to play the Open,” said Eagle Rock coach Andy Moran.

“We want to win every game,” said Franklin coach Narcisco Diaz. “Wherever they put us, we will be happy there.”

The fact that Eagle Rock and Franklin have regained their places at the top of the Northern League hierarchy so quickly after falling to the ground during the 2021 pandemic season comes as a bit of a surprise. By order of their principals, Eagle Rock and Franklin decided against a shortened spring 2021 season.

When Eagle Rock was restored in May 2021, there were just 13 players on the first day of practice, Moran said. Franklin wasn’t much taller.

Now both programs are on the rise, even with full junior varsity rosters.

An Eagle Rock win over Granada Hills and running back Dijon Stanley earlier this season opened some eyes for City Section observers. It showed the Eagles have enough strength and size on their lines to be a conversation.

“The fact that we could take on Granada Hills, great football, shows how far we’ve come,” said Moran. Franklin and Hector Ceballos are soaring again in Northern League

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