Coming off a three-game winning streak high, the Strathmore Spartans defeated the visiting Riverdale Cowboys by a count of 21-10, moving them forward in the opening round of Division VI playoffs.
Despite several key losses early in the season, the Spartans have managed to string together four consecutive wins, including their recent victory over Riverdale. Friday night’s win was due in part to the impressive play of sophomore running back Joseph Garcia. Garcia rushed for a total of 151 yards in addition to intercepting a Cowboy pass while playing on the defensive line.
The Spartans had a rough start as wide receiver Daniel Guzman fumbled a pass, turning the ball over to the Cowboys at the 15 yard line. Unfortunately, it would not be the only fumble of the evening as Spartans went on to give the Cowboys two more turnovers throughout the game.
However, with plenty of time left for redemption, Garcia intercepted a pass intended for a Riverdale wide receiver.
With the ball back in Strathmore’s possession, Andrew Avalos rushed for 20 yards after a quarterback keeper, setting the Spartans up for their first touchdown of the evening. At first and goal, Avalos handed the ball off to Garcia who managed a touchdown for the Spartans. Strathmore extended their lead as Sergio Reyes attempted the extra point, bringing the score 7-0 with 51 seconds left in the first quarter.
As the second quarter of play began, the Cowboys worked quickly to round up a touchdown of their own. Riverdale’s running back Mitchel Maggini pushed through the Spartan defense, forcing Strathmore to call a time out with seven minutes left to play in the half. However, after play resumed the Cowboys’ quarterback Adam Sierra handed the ball off to Maggini for a 10-yard touchdown, tying the score 7-7.
Opposition began to mount for the Spartans during the third quarter as Strathmore freshman Damian Valencia fumbled an Avalos pass. The Cowboys brought out kicker, Alejandro Solorio who managed a 35-yard field goal, extending the Cowboy lead 10-7 with 29 seconds left in the third quarter.
Trailing behind the Cowboys by three points, the Spartans pushed it into overdrive as returning Strathmore quarterback Nick Salas passed to Garcia who carried the ball for another 20 yards. At the 13 yard line Garcia pushed through the Cowboys’ defense securing his second touchdown of the evening, slashing the Cowboys’ lead, 14-10.
Unable to put points on the board the Cowboys handed the ball back to Strathmore. The Spartans went on to score another touchdown after wide receiver Ethan De La Cruz caught an Salas pass. With 26 seconds left in play Strathmore running back Adrian Lopez intercepted a Cowboy pass, solidifying the Spartans’ victory over Riverdale.
With Friday’s win the Spartans now own a 6-5 record. They play next when they travel to Kennedy in the quarterfinals championship contest on Friday, Nov. 20. Strathmore will encounter a Thunderbirds squad coming off a 39-36 league loss to Taft on Oct. 30. The Thunderbirds record now stands at 7-3 and are the number one seed in Division VI.
The Spartans battled the Thunderhawks in their first game of the season but came home with a devastating loss, 29-41. According to head coach Jeromy Blackwell, “The verdict of that game was no reflection on how we played as a team,” Blackwell went on to say, “Who better to play in the first round of playoffs than someone who beat us week one.”
The team has greatly improved since the beginning of the season. Strathmore suffered injuries midseason at key positions that could have potentially derailed their entire year. However, players like Andrew Avalos were forced into an unfamiliar quarterback position, and performed well under the circumstances, having led the Spartans to a number of victories. Because of his experience under center Avalos who was the Spartans number one wide receiver is now a double threat in both a passing and receiving position. Furthermore, with Salas back on the field the team is poised to produce an intricate game plan that Kennedy will be hard pressed to prepare for as the team has changed over the past ten weeks.