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Lathrop clinches 1st playoff berth
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LATHROP — The Lathrop High Spartans are going to the playoffs.
They earned that first-ever berth by handling Kimball Friday in the Valley Oak League finale at Bennie Gatto Field, 40-18.
Lathrop coach Joe Pirillo credited his entire team for the win.
“We had to weather the storm at times but that’s when our defense came through,” he said.
Rob Luckett was the force that Kimball had trouble containing in the second half.
The 6-0, 301 pound nose guard wreaked havoc, dropping the Jaguars for successive losses in the third quarter.
Lathrop (4-3 in VOL, 6-4 overall) led 26-6 at the half thanks im part to the efforts of quarterback Diego Chavez and all-purpose player Brian Terrell.
Chavez, who completed 5 of his 10 passes for 130 yards, was particularly efficient on the first half.  He was 3 of 5 in passing, delivering a 9-yard touchdown strike to Terrell in the first quarter and a 40-yard pass play for a score to Cameron Corner in the second quarter.
At that point, the Spartans led 12-0.
Kimball (1-6, 2-8) seemed unfazed, using its power running game to make it 12-6.
After Ryan Rivera’s TD from a yard out, Lathrop immediately answered back.
Terrell shifted, slithered and darted past Jaguar defenders, racing 65 yards for the score.
Moments later, Lathrop got a big play on special teams.  Alex Valencia came up with a clean blocked punt and Jacari Thompson was there at the Kimball 12 for the recovery.
Three plays later, Michael Ramos, who racked up 119 yards on 16 carries,  scored on a 1-yard run.
Pirillo, meanwhile, had some concerns about the 20-point cushion at half.
“As far as we were concerned it was 0-0,” he said.
Lathrop finally put the game away in the fourth quarter.  Terrell, who had over 200 yards from scrimmage — try three rushes for 135 yards and three receptions for 81 yards - broke loose for a 70-yard touchdown.
He nearly had his fourth score of the game, falling two yards shy after a 35-yard catch and run.
“That was Ok - we still scored,” said Terrell, who was just as happy to see teammate Jacob Devita plow one in from the Kimball 2.
It was all about team.
“We’re in the playoffs for the first time in our school’s history and we did it with our first-year coach,” Terrell added.