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East Union closes in on playoff bid
FB--East Union-Lathrop pic 5
East Union quarterback JoJo Espinosa lets it fly ahead of the rush by Lathrops Alec Rodriguez. - photo by Photos by WAYNE THALLANDER

LATHROP — Two Lathrop turnovers late in the first quarter Friday led to two East Union scores in less than 90 seconds, as the Lancers went on to a 21-0 Valley Oak League win at Bennie Gatto Field.
With 2:33 left in the first quarter, Marquise Higgins recovered a fumble for the Lancers (2-2 VOL, 5-2 overall) inside the Spartans 20-yard line. Three plays later, on his first carry of the night, Alex Alexander bulled his way into the end zone from 4 yards out with 49 seconds left in the period for a 7-0 lead.
Eight seconds later, Alexander recovered another Lathrop fumble, leading to a 23-yard scoring pass from JoJo Espinosa to Levi Huffman on the second play of the second quarter.
“When we get the ball and we’re running we try to get multiple guys,” Lancers coach Willie Herrera said. “It’s an advantage to keep fresh bodies in there, and we are lucky to have guys at our wing spots and tailback spots to be able to do that and wear the defense down.
“As a defensive guy, there is nothing better than a shutout. I don’t care if it’s 6-0, or even 2-0, I love a goose egg. We haven’t had one of those in a long time.”
East Union grabbed two interceptions with Matthew Pilkay snagging one with 7:37 left in the third quarter and Alex Kukor getting the other deep in Lancers territory with 4:23 left in the game.
Huffman put the game on ice with a 28-yard scoring run midway through the final period.
“That was my first receiving touchdown,” Huffman said of the game’s second score. “I saw the ball come straight into my hands and I knew I had to jam.
“I have to thank my line on that touchdown run. I only had to stiff-arm one player, that’s it.”
East Union used eight ball carries with Huffman leading the way with 68 yards on seven carries. Raylen Carter (59 yards), who transferred from Lathrop, and Kukor (48 yards) had 10 carries each and Devonta Scott came off the bench late in the third quarter to gain 39 yards on eight carries.
“This is not a one-man team,” Espinosa said. “We have so many tailbacks that can come in and pound the ball, and the linemen stepped up big.”
Through the first three games this year, Michael Ramos averaged better than 250 yards per game on the ground for Lathrop. (2-2, 3-4). Ramos had 111 carries on 27 carries Friday night. 
“We came in with the game plan of stopping Ramos and pounding the ball down their throat,” Espinosa said. “And once we got those two quick touchdowns that kind of calmed them down a little bit.”
Outside of Ramos the Spartans did not even have 45 yards of offense.
“We couldn’t stay on blocks at all,” Lathrop coach Joe Pirillo said. “The defense did what it was supposed to do and the offense didn’t do anything.
“Turnovers hurt a lot, but the bottom line is that we couldn’t stay on a block tonight. Once we get that fixed, we will be all right.”
Justin Manuel, Antonio Marquez and Justin Munoz-Romero each recovered a fumble for the Spartans.