Football: Strathmore scores 499 points to go back-to-back as ESL champs, finishes 10-0
By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
LINDSAY – There are good teams and then there are great teams. Good teams happen every single year while great teams comes around once in a great while.
With a 56-14 win over the Lindsay Cardinals in the 98th playing of The Bell Game, the Strathmore Spartans are quickly establishing themselvs as one of those great teams. The win completed the Spartans second undefeated regular season and East Sequoia League title.
“This is remarkable. These have been few and far between in Strathmore,” said Strathmore head coach Jeromy Blackwell. “We went 1-0 five times in league and we are proud of our kids.
Like most of their games, Strathmore kicked it off by scoring on their opening drive. And like most of those scores it was Joseph Garcia, who found pay dirt. This time it was a one-yard run that capped off a six-play drive.
Later, after Strathmore forced Lindsay to punt on their first drive, it was senior quarterback Nick Salas’s turn to go to work. His ability to sling the ball around drove them down the field until he found junior wide receiver Amando Rodriguez on an out route short of the goal line. Rodriguez used his momentum and dove into the end zone to make it 14-0.
“To have someone like [Salas] in our league and division is pretty nice,” said Rodriguez.
The rest of the game was a highlight reel for the Spartans offense, defense and even special teams.
Garcia added three more scores on the night on runs of 3, 3, and 53. He finished the night with 13 carries for 125 yards, which gave him 1,567 yards on the season.
Salas and Rodriguez also connected for another score in the second quarter. Rodriguez ran a fade route and Salas arched the ball perfectly, dropping it where only his receiver could catch it.
Salas finished the game going 9-12 for 188 yards.
In the fourth quarter, Fabian Alcantar, a future star for the Spartans, got his chance to shine. On a simple run between the tackles, he went 60 yards for the game’s final score.
Lindsay finally got on the scoreboard late in the second quarter when running back Ethan Duran punched it in from a yard out. That made the halftime score 35-7.
While in the locker room Lindsay head coach Matt Mendonca had a simple task for his team, win the third quarter.
The Cardinals looked as if they might do that when they scored on their opening drive. Sophomore quarterback Julian Avalos found an outstretched Aundrey Tapia in the corner of the end zone for the score. At the time the score was 35-14 Spartans.
The momentum however, was short lived as Strathmore freshman Lioness Moreno returned the ensuing kickoff 77 yards to the Lindsay 6 yard line.
“Plays like that, they are just momentum killers,” said Mendonca.
From then on, the Cardinals could not regain their momentum. A couple of big plays got them within scoring position, but an interception and a lost fumble stopped them in their tracks.
This is the Spartans 13th straight ESL win going back to 2015. The 42-point margin of victory is the ninth time this season Strathmore has won by 33 points or more. Over the course of the last two seasons so far, the Spartans are 24-1 through their last 25 games, which equals a .960 winning percentage.
“To be honest we really don’t pay that much attention to the record,” said Salas.
The playoff committee paid attention to the record and awarded the Spartans the top seed in the D-VI playoffs. They will host the No. 8 seed Orange Cove Titans (3-7, 2-1) on Thursday at 7 p.m. Strathmore defeated Orange Cove in week five 55-22.
Lindsay will have to travel after earning the No. 11 seed in D-V. They will play the No. 6 seed Coalinga Horned Toads (6-4, 4-1) on Thursday at 7 p.m.