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Cedano sparks New Hope defense

 

Adam Minichino

 

 

Juan Cedano has ups. 

 

Typically that's not something you say about someone who played on the offensive line as a junior. 

 

But Cedano doesn't fit into your usual categories. You just have to watch the snippets of video of him on YouTube to figure that out. A five-second video shows the New Hope High School senior jumping out of the shallow end of a pool and landing on the apron in front of him. Another 25-second web gem shows Cedano standing in front of a stack of three wooden boxes in the school's weight room. True to the title "Juan Cedano explosive jumping," Cedano elevates three times from the floor to the top of the third box, balances himself, and lands on his feet. He caps the performance by flexing for the camera. 

 

If the Louisville High football players had seen the videos they might have known Cedano had the capabilities to be a disruptive force. 

 

Cedano showed Friday he has the ability to do more than broadcast himself, as he made an impact in his first game at outside linebacker by deflecting a pass that led to an interception by M.J. Shirley in the end zone. That play was the first of two interceptions for scores that New Hope used to pull away for a 43-26 victory against Louisville in the season opener for both teams at Trojan Field. 

 

"Our coach had called a great play to get me in a good position to make a play on the ball," Cedano said. "I jumped up and tried to get my hands on it and it bounced off my helmet and the other linebacker (M.J. Shirley) was there to score." 

 

Two possessions earlier, Desmond Goss scored on a 6-yard run to slice New Hope's lead to 28-26. Louisville's Dontae Jones caught the conversion pass from Wyatt Roberts out of bounds to preserve New Hope's lead. 

 

Pinned to its 4-yard line with 7 minutes, 33 seconds remaining, Louisville needed a big play to get out of the hole. Unfortunately, Cedano delivered, coming from the left edge on second-and-11. He had a clear path at Roberts and went high into the air to take away the passing lane. Roberts got the throw away, but it deflected off Cedano high into the air, enabling an alert Shirley to tuck it away for a momentum-changing score. Ryan Lee's conversion run helped the Trojans exhale and extend their lead to 36-26. 

 

"I hope he keeps making plays like he did tonight," New Hope coach Michael Bradley sad. "He is a very athletic kid who has worked extremely hard in the weight room in the offseason. He has applied himself and dedicated himself to being a good player. He is the epitome of our team. There are a lot of kids on our team who have done that, and we're looking for big things out of him this year." 

 

Bradley said he hasn't seen Cedano's exploits on the Internet because he isn't a YouTube guy. But he can attest to Cedano's athleticism because he has seen his 39-inch vertical.  

 

"He is somebody colleges need to be recruiting because he only weighs about 190 and he can carry 220 easy, and he runs a 4.5 (in the 40-yard dash)," Bradley said. 

 

Bradley smiled when he related how Cedano played on the offensive line in his first year back playing football. He said Cedano returned to the sport out of shape and not very strong but still managed to play very well.  

 

This season, Bradley said Cedano is just one of many Trojans who has worked hard to prepare. Cedano credited his coaches for putting the entire team through the paces that have it in shape to erase the memory of last season's 4-7 finish. New Hope lost its final five games and didn't reach the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A North State playoffs. 

 

Cedano hopes things will be different this season. 

 

"Our coaches put us through a really hard summer workout and pushed me and all my teammates to do all they know we can," Cedano said. "That's what we're going to do this season." 

 

In addition to crediting his coaches, Cedano said his parents, Tony and Katja, are to thank for his athleticism. While he said he gets his leaping ability from his mother, who was an accomplished gymnast in East Germany, he gets his competitive fire from his father. That competitiveness could help explain why Cedano is on YouTube doing something not many would attempt to do. He said the videos were posted two months ago, and that he saw another video of someone jumping out of a pool onto the apron so he thought he could do it. 

 

"It came pretty easy to me," Cedano said. 

 

Katja Cedano isn't surprised, either. She said she and her husband made a point to teach their children flexibility, jumping, and tumbling. The instruction worked for Juan's sister, Tari, who was a long jumper and graduated from Oklahoma State in 2011. 

 

"We didn't like our kids sitting on their butts all day playing video games," said Katja Cedano, who competed as a gymnast since she was 3 years old and won the European Championship in 1986. It wasn't until 1989 that she was able to get out of East Germany. "I guess (all of the things they were taught) stayed with them." 

 

New Hope didn't lose the momentum from Cedano's play. On second-and-15 from its 16 on the ensuing drive, Louisville's Goss couldn't handle a pass from Roberts that deflected right into the arms of Trae Collins, who returned it 30 yards for a back-breaking final score. 

 

"Defense turned on, offense turned on. We just played together as a team," Collins said. "You see the scoreboard what happened." 

 

New Hope also had five sacks and received a team-high seven and a half solo and three assisted tackles from Preston Davis Cedano was next with six and a half solo and three assisted tackles, including four tackles for loss and one and a half sacks. Those performances allowed New Hope to rely on its defense and special teams to do nearly all of the scoring in the second half. Austin Oswalt kicked a 32-yard field goal on the Trojans' first possession in the third quarter. On the next possession, Jauquin Weatherspoon had enough time to pick his spot and turn on the afterburners en route to an 86-yard kick return. 

 

But on an evening in which sophomore quarterback Brady Davis threw three touchdown passes and the Trojans caught and made their share of breaks, the defense did its job and answered the call when it was needed the most. 

 

Thanks to Cedano, New Hope even had one or two highlights it might want to broadcast to the rest of the state. 

 

"I thought our defense did a outstanding job, especially in the second half," Bradley said. "They scored in the first half on a nice drive after we gave them a penalty on fourth down. They scored on a short field when I went for it on fourth-and-short, but I thought our defense did a really good job." 

 

Said Cedano, "Every game we're going to have times where the offense does bad and the defense picks it up, or the defense does bad and the offense picks it up. That's why we rely on each other, and that's why we're going to go far this season."

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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