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Penalties kill Lathrops mojo
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LATHROP – The Lathrop Spartans were hoping to build on last week’s momentum against Sonora.

Early on, they were able to drive into Wildcat territory only to be denied, in part, by penalties.

But then Sonora found the momentum, capitalizing on three second-quarter scoring drives en route to a 28-0 Valley Oak League victory at the recently christened Bennie Gatto Field at Paul Wiggin Stadium on Friday.

“I thought we had the momentum coming in (after our win against East Union),” said Spartans coach Steven Wichman. “Our guys thought so, too – they had a great week of practice.”

Lathrop (1-4, 1-7) took the opening drive to the Wildcat 23 as quarterback Kenny Garrett connected passes to Nilo Yuson and Josh Elliot. Penalties once again betrayed the Spartans.

Lathrop was flagged nine times for 70 yards.

The Spartans were nearly helped out by penalties later in the first quarter, with Sonora being cited on pass interference and personal foul.

The Wildcats, however, dodged another bullet. But this time they made the Spartans pay.

Behind the play of quarterback Zach Atwood, Sonora (3-2, 3-5) got on a roll. Kade Barajas and K.C. Brandsted also put a charge in the running game.

Atwood’s 5-yard run early in the second quarter helped give the Wildcats a 7-0 advantage.

Sonora got the ball shortly after as Carter Denton came up with the interception at midfield. From there, Atwood found Dalton Miale on a 41-yard pass play to inside the Spartans’ 5.

The Lathrop defense behind T.J. Conley – he delivered the big hit on a third-down stop – kept the Wildcats out of the end zone. Instead, Cayden McLaughlin booted a 23-yard field goal, boosting Sonora’s lead, 10-0.

Sonora mustered up one more drive shortly before halftime. McLaughlin, who just missed on his 49-yard field goal try, got a do-over following a running-into-the-kicker penalty.

This time, McLaughlin converted the 45-yard field goal to mark the end of the half.

“It made a difference (on us) going in to the half behind 13-0 rather than 10-0,” said Wichman.

The Spartans came out strong in the second half but had little to show for their effort.

Sonora put the game on ice thanks to a pair of Brandsted TD runs in the third quarter.

Wichman praised the efforts of running backs Andrew Gaynor and Chance Wells.

Gaynor broke at least six tackles on his 36-yard run and Chance, who had 38 yards on three carries, reeled off a hard-fought 33-yard run.

“It was important that we take advantage of our early opportunities,” he said. “We needed to be that team to score first in order to build on that early momentum.”