LATHROP — Lathrop had defending Trans-Valley League co-champion Hilmar on the ropes late in the second quarter but could not deliver the knockout blow in a 16-14 loss at Bennie Gatto Field.
Hilmar (2-0) first got on board with a safety early in the second, but the Spartans (1-1) answered with a 60-yard punt touchdown return from Idowu Olaleye followed by Keonnee Linnell’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Donald Garland to jump ahead 14-2 with 1:16 remaining in the half.
“We just lost the momentum after that,” Lathrop coach Joe Pirillo said.
Chase Kindberg got the Yellowjackets back on track, hitting Klay Farris for a touchdown with 24 seconds to go. Kindberg then found Kelby Peres for the go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter.
Lathrop later a chance to recapture the lead but missed a 40-yard field goal that had plenty of distance but narrowly missed wide left. The defense forced Hilmar to punt on the following drive, but the offense remained on the sidelines as the Spartans turned it over on the play. That allowed Hilmar to run out the clock with quarterback kneels.
“Our defense is playing great, we’re just struggling on offense to get things going,” Pirillo said. “We mishandled a couple snaps or the reads weren’t there and blocks were missed. It seemed like on every play it was a different guy making mistakes.
“Hilmar is a tough team to face, but they made less mistakes than us and that’s what it came down to. We have to try and limit the mistakes now and move forward.”
It doesn’t get any easier for Lathrop, which welcomes 1-0 Franklin of Elk Grove next week.