Football: Spartans win 2nd SoCal regional title in 3 years
Strathmore punches ticket to third straight state championship after 28-7 win over the Adelanto Saints
By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
STRATHMORE – Three weeks ago the Strathmore Spartans won their third straight valley title. Last Friday the Spartans won their third straight regional championship. And all over the last three years that Spartans have boasted a 43-2 record. Now, coming up, Jeromy Blackwell’s football squad will make their third straight state championship appearance.
“I’ve got a great bunch of kids who have bought in to what we are teaching here, and we walk into every single game we play expecting to win,” Blackwell said.
After sending the Adelanto Saints packing with a 28-7 loss in the Division 6AA SoCal Regional game, the Spartans will be taking a short break before their state championship game as the NorCal Regional Championships are playing this weekend.
Some of the section championships were delayed due to the recent wildfires in the state and subsequent bad air quality from the smoke. Strathmore may have to defend their Division 6AA state title against the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Hilmar Yellowjackets (11-2, 4-2). The game would be a rematch of last year’s play-in game where Strathmore narrowly defeated Hilmar 53-52 in double overtime. Blackwell said in an interview with the Sun-Gazette this July that was the game that inspired him and his team during their state title run.
Blackwell is planning to use this week off to get his team healthy, and get some second string players who might be starting in their first state title game up to speed. In the regional game, some players were banged up including Damian Valencia who missed a play because of a shin injury. The entire postseason has been hard on the Spartans as they have lost players due to injuries.
“We are going to keep things light and crisp at practice, and once we know who we are playing then we will start scheming,” Blackwell said.
Unfortunately, the Spartans will lose their home field advantage for the state championship again this season. Each year, the north and south regions alternate as to who will host, and this year it is the north’s turn.
Spartan Stadium, with it’s natural playing surface, has been a great equalizer for Strathmore in these big games, especially when the field has turned to mud.
Last Friday night against the Saints (13-2, 3-1), the field had been saturated by a recent storm. The Saints, who are used to playing on all-weather turf, was not prepared for the field conditions. Their seven points scored and 281 yards of total offense were both season lows.
The Daily Press reported that Adelanto senior defensive lineman Oryn Landry said, “It was the mud on the field. We weren’t use to it, I feel like.”
Landry’s words could be an understatement as the Saints looked completely out of sorts. The Saints turned the ball over five times as more passes bounced of the finger tips than were completed. Their leading running back Marshawn Buchanan was held to 69 yards.
For Strathmore it was just another day at the office. In the final 5:17 of the second quarter, the Spartans took complete control of the game.
Alonso Acevedo made it 7-0 on a 14-yard run which capped off an 11-play, 73-yard drive. Earlier in the drive, Eduardo Lopez converted a fourth down on an eight-yard fake punt which kept the drive alive.
Adelanto tried to get their high-flying offense going by spreading the ball horizontally to try to catch the Spartans defense sleeping. The plan backfired and Adelanto turned the ball over on downs on their own 30 yard line.
On the next play, Trace Pugh hit Andre Bravo for a touchdown pass with 37 seconds left. The pass seemed to pass through Adelanto’s Danny Williams’ hands and into Bravo’s.
“All I remember was I jumped and when I came down the ball was in my hands,” Bravo said. “I had no idea.”
It was the first solid pass Pugh had thrown all night after throwing an interception earlier in the game. Pugh ended the game going 3-8 for 64 yards and two touchdowns. He and Bravo connected again for a second touchdown in the third quarter.
It was only a matter of seconds before Strathmore struck again. Two plays into Adelanto’s next drive, Valencia got his second interception of the game and made the score 21-0 by returning it 25 yards for a pick-six.
“It was my first pick-six in my four years on varsity and for it to happen in this big of a game was amazing,” Valencia said.
Eventually, Adelanto got the break they were looking for and scored. In the fourth quarter as Strathmore attempted to take as much time off the clock as possible Adelanto’s Rashaun Ramsey hit Omari McCullough for a 73-yard touchdown.
An almost nine minute drive by Strathmore followed. Conversions on third and fourth downs helped seal the win.