By VINCE REMBULAT
GALT — The Lathrop High Spartans clung on to 20-14 lead over Liberty Ranch late in the game Thursday at Warrior Stadium.
The Hawks were threatening with the ball inside the Lathrop 10.
Suddenly, the Spartans defense seized the moment.
First it was tackle Brian Folgar dropping Liberty Ranch quarterback Rick Van Houton for a 3-yard loss.
Linebacker Idowu Olaleye, who recovered a pair of fumbles — the first one led to Jacob Devita’s 3-yard TD in the second quarter — shot the gap push the Hawks back even further.
Nose guard Rob Luckett delivered the knockout blow, intercepting a pass and nearly coming up with the pick six.
“I really wanted (the touchdown),” he said, after being stopped at the Liberty Ranch 31. “I have to get into better conditioning.”
Still, Lockett’s play was enough to preserve the win for Lathrop (1-1).
“Rob did a great job reading that play,” said Joe Pirillo, who chalked up his first win as the Spartans coach.
He was confident his team’s defense, in particular, how it gave the Hawks (0-1) fits.
That was after the Spartans made the necessary adjustments after falling behind 7-0 in the first quarter.
Liberty Ranch drove 79 yards on seven plays capped by Van Houton’s 2-yard run.
Lathrop took advantage of a turnover early in the second quarter which led to Jacob Devita’s 3-yard run. Andy Basulto’s kick tied the game at 7-7.
Lockett came up with a big fourth-down play, tying up Hawks’ ballcarrier.
Quarterback Diego Sanchez, who hit Anthony Santos and RJ Tisdell, delivered a 24-yard scoring strike to Donald Garland shortly before intermission.
“Diego was very comfortable (at quarterback),” Pirillo said. “He had some easy read and got the ball out of his hand quickly and with accuracy.”
After Liberty Ranch tied the game in third, the Spartans came right back with Chavez connecting with Anthony Santos on the go-ahead 16-yard touchdown.
A blocked extra point gave the Hawks a shot at coming up on top.
The Lathrop defense held.
“It’s not how you start the game but rather how you finish,” Lockett said.
To contact reporter Vince Rembulat firstname.lastname@example.org.