For the better part of the first two quarters, the Lathrop High Spartans stood toe to toe with Kimball.
At one point, they even held a slight edge over the much-improved Jaguars, scoring not too long after recovering an onside kick.
But then game took a turn for the worse as Kimball busted loose, pouring iton with touchdowns on four straight possessions en route to a 49-26 Valley Oak League win at Bennie Gatto Field at Paul Wiggin Stadium.
“Going into this game, we knew what they were capable of doing,” said first-year Lathrop coach Steven Wichman, who spent the past four years as an assistant coach for the Jaguars. “Our game plan (on defense) was to swarm (the ball carrier), gang tackle, and keep them from running outside.
“We did that at times.”
The Spartans (1-6, 1-9) held a 20-14 lead in the second quarter, mixing in the run with the pass.
Down 14-6 – a 39-yard draw play by Josh Elliot in the opening quarter accounted for the earlier touchdown – Lathrop scored twice in a span of 90 seconds. Running back Haw’aii Leaf a Teo scored on a 6-yard run and the Spartans recovered the loose ball on the short kick.
Quarterback Kenny Garrett, who completed his first seven passes, hit Nilo Yuson on a 38-yard scoring strike. On the two-point conversion, he found Leaf a Teo.
But the final two minutes leading into halftime belonged to Kimball (4-3, 5-5).
The Jaguars struck quickly as quarterback Ben Juarez connected with Christian Teyshak on a 60-yard pass play, setting up Gaige Allen’s 15-yard TD run.
After a three-and-out by Lathrop, Kimball got big plays from Allen and the speedy Damon Jackson. From there, Rashaad Cooper scored the first of his three TDs just before the intermission.
His 5-yard toss from Juarez in the closing seconds gave the Jaguars a 28-20 lead. In the second half, Cooper put the game out of reach with a 56- and 22- yard scoring runs.
Lathrop closed out the season on Felix Rodriguez’s 19-yard TD run.
The game was bittersweet for both teams, according to Wichman.
He faced his former players and coaches with mixed emotions.
Likewise for Jesse Rodriguez, who was the previous and first-ever coach of the Spartans. He’s now an assistant coach for Kimball.
The Jaguars outrushed Lathrop, 327-174, and had a 456-316 overall edge in yardage.