Coronavirus protocols have spoiled Senior Night once again for the Lathrop football team.
The Spartans’ final home game of the season has been called off by their opponent for COVID-related reasons. Johansen (1-6) was set to visit Bennie Gatto Field this Friday.
Lathrop Athletic Director Chuck Selna hoped to get a replacement on Tuesday but there were few available options and none that fit all parties involved. The junior varsity game with Johansen is still on but has been moved to Thursday with a 5 p.m. kickoff time. First-year head coach Ryan Teicheira and Selna said there will be a halftime ceremony to honor the seniors.
“We’re going to make the most of it,” Teicheira said. “We’ll get to celebrate their three of four years of Lathrop football and make it as special for them as much as we can.”
During the pandemic-shortened spring season, Lathrop only got to play one of its five games because of COVID cancelations. Senior Night in the spring was called off hours before kickoff. The program held a rally after the season to recognize its seniors.
Lathrop is the third area to school to have an opponent cancel because of health-and-safety protocols this season, but Ripon Christian (twice) and Ripon were both able to find replacements. At 5-2 overall, playoff-hopeful Lathrop is a game behind Grace Davis in the Western Athletic Conference standings after losing to the Spartans of Modesto 25-13 last Friday.
The upside to the unplanned bye week is that Lathrop gets extra rest for some of its players who were banged up during their physical encounter with Grace Davis.
The downside? It’s the second bye in three weeks, and Lathrop was highly favored to get a much-needed win this week in its quest for a postseason berth. The Spartans’ best bet to qualify would have been to beat Grace Davis last week and put themselves in the driver’s seat for at least a share of a league title, which would award them an automatic berth.
Eighty teams in all make the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, and at-large bids are determined by Calpreps/MaxPreps computer ratings. Teams must have at least four wins to advance, a requirement Lathrop has fulfiled. Its low strength of schedule, however, has the Spartans sitting on the bubble — they are ranked 81st in the latest Calpreps.MaxPreps ratings.
“You don’t want your mojo to be lost in a random week off,” Teicheira said. “High school athletes have their routine, and now they’re off their routine and off their schedule. We have hopes for the playoffs, but we know how important the two weeks to follow are to reach that goal.”
Lathrop’s final two games, both on the road, are likely must-wins. First up is dangerous Los Banos (2-4) on Oct. 22. The Spartans then head to Mountain House (2-5) for the Old River Rivalry in Week 10.