With Lathrop threatening to retake the lead in the fourth quarter Friday, East Union’s Joseph Reynaga stuffed a fourth-down play by the Spartans to give his Lancers the ball back near midfield.
East Union made the best of Reynaga's bone-crushing hit with an 11-play, 53-yard drive capped off with a fourth-down, 21-yard touchdown pass from Jack Weaver to Jake Harries to help the Lancers to a 26-14 win on their 50th anniversary homecoming at Dino Cunial Field. The victory ended a 10-game Valley Oak League losing streak for undefeated East Union.
“On that play I just made my reads and did what I had to do,” Reynaga said. “It happened so quickly. All I know is I filled my hole and I was able to make the stop.”
Lancers coach Willie Herrera was thrilled with the effort by Reynaga on that play.
“That was just a fantastic job of stepping up and making a play when we needed it,” Herrera said of Reynaga's fourth-down stop.
On the final scoring drive, an illegal shift pushed East Union (1-0 VOL, 4-0 overall) from third-and-2 to third-and-7 at the Lathrop 21-yard line. The next play went for no gain and then Harries broke through the middle and then headed for the corner, pulling in a strike from Weaver for the final score with 2:20 left in the game.
“The safety had been flying up all game,” Harries said. “He was a great player.
“I saw him fly up again and I saw a hole and got up in it and scored.”
Herrera said that big plays like the catch by Harries come down to the proper execution and good team play.
“That was an example of how when we tell our kids that if you execute, good things will happen,” Herrera said. “And our offense executed and there was no selfishness out there.
Weaver (7 of 10 passing, 54 yards) opened the scoring in the first quarter on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Angel Sena – set up when Ruben Gallegos crushed a Spartans ball carrier on a punt return and Daniel Reed covered the ensuing fumble – and added a 10-yard touchdown run with 18 seconds left in the first half.
“It was fourth and seven and the game was on the line,” Weaver said of his touchdown toss to Harries. “It would be a little risky to kick a field goal, so I am super glad our coaches have the trust in me to call that play in that situation.
“We called the play, I got my read, saw Jake was open after running a great route and hit him right in the chest.”
Weaver’s last-second score in the second period was set up by another impressive Lancers defensive stand. Lathrop (0-1, 1-3) got to the East Union 4 line midway through the second quarter but in the next three plays could muster just one more yard, giving the Lancers the ball at their own 3 with 6:06 showing on the clock.
Enter punishing East Union fullback Isaiah Sholund (30 carries, 144 yards, TD). The 5-foot-5, 188-pound bruiser steamrolled his way 52 yards on six carries on the ensuing scoring drive, helping the Lancers chew up nearly all of the last half of the second quarter. In the middle of that drive Matthew Pilkay grabbed a pass out of a Spartans defender’s hands to not only prevent a turnover but pick up a key first down.
“Tonight was great,” Sholund said. “I think the o-line did an amazing job. Guys were going out and new people came back in and did the job they were supposed to do.
“This was amazing. This was my first varsity homecoming game and the lights and shine – it just blew my mind.”
The Spartans (0-1, 1-3) tied the game at 7-7 in the second quarter on a 12-yard run by quarterback Keonnee Linnell (11 of 20 passing, 107 yards, interception) and took a 14-13 lead midway through the third period on an 11-yard run by shifty halfback Michael Ramos (17 carries, 154 yards).
“Mike ran hard,” Lathrop coach Joe Pirillo said. “He ran very hard.
“But the problem is that when you work him that hard he gets tired, especially when he plays on both sides of the ball.”
Harries had an interception to end the first Spartans drive of the game.