Strathmore football stays unbeaten

Strathmore steamrolls Woodlake 53-7 on Monday night, improves to an undefeated 6-0 on the season

WOODLAKE – While the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders were competing on Monday Night Football, fans at Robinson-Painter Memorial Stadium were watching a different football game. After a postponement of Friday’s matchup due to poor air quality, the Strathmore Spartans went on the road Monday night to defeat the Woodlake Tigers 53-7.

It was the first time ever playing on Monday night for the Spartans and the second for the Tigers, with the first coming last week in a home win against Sierra Pacific for the same reason.

Neither side knew the game was happening until about two and a half hours before kickoff. According to Woodlake’s athletic director Jose Palomo, the status of the game was up in the air until around 4:15 p.m. They received the green light from the school district office that the air quality had cleared up enough to play the game which was set to kickoff at 6:45 p.m.

For the Spartans, they are now pros at expecting the unexpected. Of their six football games, four have been rescheduled. They were supposed to open the season against Mira Monte who canceled due to COVID-19 protocols, so they picked up a game against Roosevelt just two days before kickoff. Their following game against Orange Cove was supposed to be played on a Friday but it was moved to Thursday due to a shortage of officials. The next two weeks were normal until their week five opponent, Farmersville, canceled due to COVID-19. Strathmore then picked up a last minute game against Sunnyside with just two days to prepare. Through it all, the Spartans are undefeated.

“I think we’ve been catching people by surprise because we never know who we’re going to play and on what day we’re going to be playing,” head coach Jeromy Blackwell said.

The most impressive win of the season was the 46-34 victory over Sunnyside, a school that is normally three or four divisions ahead of the Spartans. They defeated Roosevelt 17-6 in the season opener, another school that’s normally a division or two higher than Strathmore with about 4,000 more students.

“I think it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity because those teams have more to lose than us. And we have nothing to lose. So we just have to show up, play football and go 100 miles an hour,” Blackwell said. “Luckily, our kids don’t know they’re not supposed to play those games. They just want to play football.”

Blackwell considers the team’s success to be a collective effort and their season stat sheets back up his claim. Senior quarterback Jaylen Oats orchestrates the offense, getting it done through the air and on the ground as the team’s touchdown leader. His favorite target is senior Manuel Adrade who leads the team in receiving. Deemed a man playing amongst boys by his head coach, senior Carlos Moreno leads the rushing attack but junior Adrian Sierra is not too far behind. Sierra leads the team in all-purpose yardage and is one of their most versatile weapons.

“I don’t think that we’re about a [single] player. I think we’re about a whole bunch of players that love football, they like each other, care about each other and don’t want to let each other down,” Blackwell said. “And so they do a pretty good job of elevating their play and executing the details of their assignment with great effort.”

Being accountable to each other is a goal the team sets every year, but they also have performance goals they hope to reach as well. In the 101 year history of Strathmore football, there’s only been 16 East Sequoia League champions, six Valley Champions, and this year’s squad hopes to add one more in each category.

This year’s path to the Valley championship will likely be the toughest to date for the Spartans. They won three straight section titles between 2016-2018 while ranked in Division VI before being moved up to Division V in 2019. They made it to the final four that year, but this year’s rankings for the Central Section playoffs have changed and are based on the current year’s performance. As of the section’s projected ranking released on Sept. 28, the Spartans are in Division III with the likes of Central Valley Christian, Redwood, and Bakersfield Christian. A new ranking was released last night after press time and can be found at www.cifcs.org/sports/fball/Football_Divisions.pdf.

“We would have no business playing those guys, but you can’t convince our guys that. They’re never going to back down and they’re going to come to play against whoever they’re playing,” Blackwell said.

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Photo by Jermaine Johnson II

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