Spartans march towards playoffs
Spartan head coach Jeromy Blackwell’s game time philosophy, “1-0 is all that matters” seems to be working out well for the Spartans as the team has narrowly secured their last two wins, moving them closer to a possible playoff berth.
On Friday, Oct. 30 the Grizzlies traveled up the road to face off against the Spartans. Last year the Grizzlies demolished the Spartans in a blowout 41-12 win. Despite key player injuries, the Spartans were looking for redemption and were quick to recover a Grizzlies fumble early in the first quarter. With possession of the ball, the Spartan offense fought hard against the Grizzlies, but were not able to move down the field as stand-in quarterback Andrew Avalos was dropped on the fourth and long.
Granite Hills could not keep their hands on the ball as they fumbled once again as Strathmore’s tight end Grant Lockridge recovered the fumble. Strathmore drove down the field despite a tough Granite Hill defense. Unable to cap off the drive with a touchdown, Strathmore was forced to bring out kicker Sergio Reyes for a 31-yard field goal attempt. Unfortunately, Reyes was unable to put the ball through the uprights, leaving the score 0-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Seven minutes into the second, Strathmore senior Alan Rangel recovered Granite Hills’ third fumble of the evening. With the ball in Strathmore’s possession Avalos managed to rush down the right side for a 21-yard gain, bringing the Spartans to the 15 yard line. On the second and 10, an off sides call was made by Granite Hills’ pushing the Spartans to the five yard line. With no targets in sight Avalos decided to push up the middle to the goal line, but it was all for not as a holding penalty by Strathmore sent the Spartans back to the 17 yard line. At fourth and goal the Spartans were primed to make the first touchdown of the evening as Avalos found his target in wide receiver Daniel Guzman. The pass was tipped by a Grizzly defender but Guzman was able to catch the ball for a Spartan touchdown.
The Spartans opted for the two-point conversion but were unable to push through the Grizzlies defense. On the Grizzlies’ ensuing possession, quarterback Andy Alvarez passed to wide receiver Andy Gonzalez who took the ball up field for 34 yards. Granite Hills continued to slash through the Spartans’ defense as the Grizzlies were able to set up shop at the seven yard line. On second and four Alvarez handed the ball to running back Baggio Gutierrez who rushed up the middle for the go ahead touchdown. Granite Hills’ kicker Antonio Valencia was able to hand his team the lead after the point after attempt, making the score 7-6 at the end of the first half.
The third quarter saw little movement as both teams’ defenses managed to control the game. As the fourth quarter wasn’t much better as adversity continued to pile when Granite Hills suffered an injury to offensive lineman Oscar Mata. The Grizzlies offense coughed up the ball yet again as Strathmore freshman Damien Valencia picked up the fumble and managed to return the ball 41 yards, bringing the Spartans to the 32 yard line. Despite an offside penalty called on the Spartans, Garcia rushed for another 10 yards up the middle for the Spartans second touchdown of the night.
Once again the Spartans attempted a two point conversion but were stopped by the Grizzlies’ defense leaving the score 12-7 with 10:25 left in the fourth.
With ample time to achieve a touchdown the Grizzlies attempted to refocus their energy. Alvarez exploded managing a 37-yard rush before being stopped by Strathmore’s defensive lineman Alan Rangel at the 10 yard line.
As the clock ticked down Strathmore was able to prevent the Grizzlies from moving down the field, eventually handing the ball back to the Spartan offense with less than a minute of play left in the fourth quarter.
Blackwell noted that despite their win, “Granite Hills did an awesome job stuffing our runs.” Blackwell went on to say that in terms of his players, “They really were able to control the game” giving credit to his key defensive players, Jose Rodriguez, Jonathan Tapia as well as Rangel.
As the Spartans prepare for the 95th annual Bell game against rival Lindsay High School, Blackwell shared, “It doesn’t matter what the records are. The game is always a nailbiter.”
The Bell game will be played at Lindsay on Friday, Nov. 6 with kickoff taking place at 7 p.m.