LATHROP — It was more than a statement win for Lathrop.
“Tonight was a change in culture for Lathrop Spartan football,” first-year head coach Joey Pirllo said after his team’s stunning 35-0 thumping of East Union on Friday.
The Valley Oak League-opening victory is a benchmark moment for Lathrop, which hadn’t won more than two games in a single season over its first six varsity campaigns. The Spartans (1-0 VOL, 3-1 overall) are now rolling. They’ve already set a new program record for most wins in a season, and Friday’s triumph was their first on homecoming night.
“We never wanted to win more than this,” Lathrop running back/linebacker Jacob Devita said.
And it showed.
Lathrop’s impressive defense turned in yet another masterful effort, shutting out a prolific East Union attack that was averaging 37.7 points per game. The Lancers (0-1, 3-1) were riding the momentum of last week’s emotional 30-27 win over Modesto Metro Conference contender Gregori.
East Union was limited to just 78 yards of offense and eight first downs — four of them coming in the first three quarters — and was thwarted twice in its only trips to the red zone.
Late in the first quarter, Jacari Thompson blocked East Union’s 29-yard field goal attempt. Then in third, Adrian Sauceda’s 71-yard kickoff return set the Lancers up on the Lathrop 16 on their first series of the second half and again came up empty-handed, as quarterback Jack Weaver was stripped by Tremayne Tuipuloto Willis Jr. on third-and-goal from the 20. Fellow outside linebacker Idowu Olaleye came up with the loose ball.
Lathrop’s defense stopped the Lancers for negative plays 15 times and wrapped up Weaver for eight sacks. Tuipuloto Willis Jr. fittingly ended the game with his fourth sack of the contest. His earlier strip sack of Weaver was one three turnovers forced by the Lathrop defense.
Lathrop’s secondary came up with two interceptions in the fourth quarter. Isaias Hunter picked off a pass intended for 6-foot-2 receiver Austin Miller (three receptions, 48 yards), and Brian Terrell returned another 53 yards for the final touchdown of the game. Terrell also capped Lathrop’s previous drive with an 18-yard score.
“I knew it was coming the whole way,” Terrell said of his pick-six. “I saw the quarterback, was reading him the whole time, and I just made a play on the ball.”
Weaver completed eight of 19 passes for 58 yards and was held to 1 rushing yard from scrimmage. East Union’s leading rusher for the season, Weaver actually ended up with minus 13 yards because of a poor snap on a punt attempt that dropped him for a 14-yard loss on the team’s first possession of the game. One play later, Devita (14 rushes, 104 yards) punched in Lathrop’s first touchdown with a 15-yard jaunt up the middle.
“We knew they were going to bring it,” East Union coach Willie Herrera said. “We didn’t help our cause and we just kept digging that hole deeper and deeper.”
And this could be the start of something special for Lathrop. While the defense deserves praise, it was somewhat of a breakthrough performance for the offense. Quarterback Diego Chavez led a pivotal scoring drive in the final minute of the first half when Lathrop led 7-0. The Spartans ran four consecutive first-down plays, two of them 10-yard completions by Chavez, and on the fifth play he hit Keenan Donatelli in the back corner of the end zone for a 9-yard TD.
It was part of a streak of six completed passes for Chavez, who started out 1 of 6. He finished 9 of 17 for 92 yards and rushed four times for 14 yards.
“That kid can play quarterback, you just got to put him in the right positions sometimes and he understands that,” Pirillo said. “You put the ball in his hands and good things will happen. When it matters in a two-minute situation, I like the ball in his hands.”
Lathrop accumulated 307 yards of offense, with sophomore call-up Michael Ramos adding 83 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Cameron Corner had four catches for 59 yards and was one of five receives used by Chavez.