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Muddy field, Cougars cant slow Spartans in Battle of I-5
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Lathrop running back Michael Ramos slips past Weston Ranchs Bryant Bowen in the Battle of I-5. - photo by Photo by WAYNE THALLANDER

STOCKTON — The perpetual Battle for I-5 trophy once again belongs to the Lathrop High Spartans.
They attacked the muddy, rain-soaked field of Weston Ranch, claiming a 32-6 Valley Oak League victory Friday while snapping a five-game losing streak. It’s Lathrop’s third consecutive win over its rival.
“I was very happy the way we ran the ball,” said Lathrop coach Joe Pirillo, praising the efforts of Tremayne Tuipuloto Willis Jr., Michael Ramos coupled with the offensive line.
The weather — in this case, a steady drizzle — dictated the style of play.
“We usually do more passing,” Pirillo said.
For Weston Ranch (0-4 VOL, 3-4 overall), the muddy field made it tough for its speedy backs to make that quick cut infield.
“I thought this weather might hurt us,” said Cougars coach Seth Davis. “But (Lathrop) had to play in it, too.”
The Spartans (1-3, 2-5) was able to make the most of their opportunities as both teams had trouble holding on to the ball.
The second quarter featured an array of turnovers by both teams.
The Cougars’ Malik Vega-Tatum picked off a pass only to see his squad return the favor with a fumble.
Moments later, the Spartans coughed up the ball, with the Weston Ranch offense being forced into a fourth-and-long situation.
Lathrop intercepted the desperate pass at its own 10. Ramos came up with the first big play of the games, reeling off 72 yards before being stopped at the Weston Ranch 18.
On the next play, Willis Jr. found the end zone.
The Cougars committed another fumble on their next possession. Willis Jr. scored his second TD on a 56 yard run.
Spartans’ nose guard got into the act, recovering a fumble at his own 43. Ramos capitalized by scoring on an 18-yard run just before halftime.
Keonnoe Linnell, Lathrop’s quarterback, scored the two-point conversion, making it 20-0 for the Spartans at the half.
Early in the third, Lathrop tacked on to its lead thanks to Ramos’ 31-yard scoring run.
He was the top rusher in the game with 168 yards on 21 carries. Willis Jr. tallied 149 yards on 24 pops
Weston Ranch avoided the shutout when James Walker broke loose on a 21-yard run.
“This is always an important game for both teams being that we’re so close together,” Pirillo said.

To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail