LATHROP – Andrew Aquino wasn’t about to mail it in and take the last game of his high school football career off.
He has been a Lathrop High Spartan for four years, and while that might have translated into frustration on the football field – watching a new program slowly start to get off the ground – he was going to leave every ounce of energy his 120-pound body could produce out on that grass.
And what happened when the rest of his senior teammates followed suit will be something that will be talked about for years to come, the night that the Spartans shut out Kimball of Tracy 20-0 for its first-ever Valley Oak League victory to cap off the season on a memorable note.
Aquino and the rest of the seniors on the team are part of the first four-year class, adding another layer to Friday’s thrilling victory.
“This was going to be our last game and we all worked so hard and gave it everything that we had, and that’s why you see that 20-0 score up on the board right now,” Aquino said. “I’m so happy that we were able to come together as a team and make that happen.”
Lathrop (1-6, 2-8) got on the board first when quarterback Elijah Cash hit Ricky Chavez in stride for a 31-yard touchdown strike midway through the second quarter. The Spartans’ offense had sputtered somewhat until that point, but a strong and stingy defense prevented Kimball (1-6, 2-8) from gaining any ground.
That lead would grow early in the fourth quarter when Cash snuck across the goal line from a yard out, and Christian Pena drove the final nails into the Jaguar coffin when he reeled off a 50-yard touchdown run – Lathrop’s biggest play of the night that gave the team a three-score advantage and all of the momentum it would need.
Seeing the team rally behind the stellar play of the senior offensive corps, said head coach Jesse Rodriguez, made him proud.
“It’s gratifying tonight to see these seniors be able to walk off the field with a win – the first VOL win in school history,” he said. “They worked their butts off to get here, and I couldn’t be more proud or happy right now. This is a big win for the program as a whole – especially for the lower levels.
“It sets those benchmarks and shows the younger guys that there’s a level that has been reached and that they can now go beyond that.”
Aquino finished with 106 yards on 18 carries, while Christian Pena finished with 100 yards on just as many rushes with a touchdown.
Rodriguez credited Cash – who completed two of his five pass attempts for 45 yards and a touchdown strike to go with his rushing touchdown – with running the offense the way it was supposed to be run.
And he couldn’t have had more praise for Aquino and the way he approaches the game of football.
“That kid is all heart. He never misses a practice and he’s going to give you all that he has to give,” Rodriguez said. “Hopefully this will be the start of us getting some wins so we can start getting some kids out here. We barely have 1,000 in the school right now, and that’s not enough to compete with other VOL schools.
“But tonight it’s all about this win.”