Spartans offense has Styles

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Head Coach Jeromy Blackwell always has the Spartans ready to play, so substance is something Strathmore High School fans are used to. But who knew when the football season started that the Spartans offense would have Styles?

Strathmore fans saw the beginning of junior running back Cody Styles dominance in a Week 3 loss to the Cesar Chavez Titans. In his first game as the featured back, Styles 141 yards and a touchdown. Styles sparked the Spartan offense in Week 4 with 280 yards and two touchdowns in a decisive 30-7 win over Orosi.

Last Friday against the McFarland Cougars, Styles ran for 286 yards on 18 carries and scored three touchdowns. In the last three games, Styles has run for nearly 700 yards and six touchdowns. Not bad for a player started the season as a receiver.

“We had a good week of practice and my line opened some big holes and made it easy on me,” Styles said. “We worked on drills to secure the football and everyone played well tonight.”

Styles, the Spartans and the Cougars all got off to a fast start. Styles scored on the first play from scrimmage with a 56-yard touchdown run. The lead was short-lived as the Cougars countered when Francisco Munoz returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown. Styles ripped off another 50-yard run shortly thereafter. Rico Madrigal then took it in from the 6 yard line for the touchdown.

“Cody showed again this week that he was the fastest guy on the field,” Blackwell said.

It looked like McFarland might counter. After driving deep into Spartan territory, Spartan linebacker Rico Madrigal jarred the ball loose from Couger runningback DJ Lopez. The fumble was recovered at the Spartan 32 yard line by Sergio Hernandez. Styles did some hard running between the 20s knifing his way down inside the redzone. Madrigal finished off the drive by breaking three tackles en route to a 20-yard touchdown run.

The Cougars never recovered. Early in the third quarter, another long run by Styles was extended by a facemask penalty. Styles added to his touchdown total on a 13-yard touchdown run dragging a defender for several yards. The Spartans scored again when Tony Cruz ran it in from 25 yards out.

McFarland was able to mount another long drive capped by a toss play to DJ Lopez, making it 35-14. With just over a minute left in the game, McFarland was looking to head into the half with a little bit of momentum. Styles had other plans. Switching from the ground game to the air, the Spartans worked the sidelines to stop the clock. After driving to McFarland’s 27 yard line, Strathmore called its only timeout of the game. With 32 seconds left in the half, Styles sidestepped through the defense for a 12-yard touchdown. By halftime, the game was a route with Spartans dominating 42-14.

“Cody has that great balance and vision,” Blackwell said. “He sets up two and three blocks down the field and can make people miss. That’s not something you can teach. That’s great talent.”

The Spartan defense began to clamp down in the second half, forcing and recovering a fumble on McFarland’s first possession. Styles went back to work setting up Madrigal for another 20-yard touchdown. The Strathmore defense forced another fumble and Cody Chapa recovered the ball on McFarland’s next drive. Filo Garcia scored from the 7 yard line in his first varsity touchdown for the Spartans.

With 3:17 in left in the game, McFarland’s Vincent Marroquin got his team into the endzone for their only touchdown of the second half. DJ Lopez added a two-point conversion to leave the final score 56-22.

“From game 1 to game 5 we have seen slow and steady progress,” Blackwell said. “We are starting to come around and get where we think we should be.”

The Spartans (3-2) will have a bye this Friday and then be back at home for an important league match against the Woodlake Tigers on Oct. 5.

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