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Spartans hit wall in red zone
West seals win with pick-six on last play
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TRACY – The Lathrop High Spartans opened the season with a hard-fought 20-7 non-league loss to West Friday at Steve Lopez Stadium.

“We had our opportunities in the red zone,” said Lathrop coach Steven Wichman. “Those missed opportunities came back to haunt us.”

Included was the final play of the game as the Spartans (0-1) had a chance for a tie or even a victory in the waning seconds.

Instead, the Spartans, trailing 13-7, came up empty. West’s Marcel Dancy, who scored the go-ahead touchdown, raced 96 yard on a pick-six as time expired.

“I told our guys that it’s not how you start but rather how you finish,” said Wichman, who summed up this contest as a typical season opener.

The Spartans, in this case, mustered very little offense in the first half yet managed to keep the game close.

Both teams were far from a well-oiled machine. Offensively, the Wolf Pack tallied 66 yards rushing on 20 pops while Lathrop managed 69 yards on 17 carries in those first two quarters.

“We had no rhythm and couldn’t put together much of drive,” said Wichman.

 West (1-0) took a 7-0 first-quarter lead thanks to a 16-yard touchdown run by James Gibbons on a quarterback keeper.

On the plus side, Wichman raved about his defense. “They played well throughout the game,” he said.

Defense came through with a fumble early in the second half as junior lineman Rob Luckett pounced on the loose ball at the West 36.

From there, the Spartans mixed it up with the run and pass. Jairell McClain reeled off a 14-yard run and quarterback Diego Chavez delivered a clutch fourth-down pass to Nathan Ogunbanwo, setting up Jacob Devita’s 1-yard plunge.

Matt Hernandez’s extra-point kick tied the game at 7-7.

The scored stayed that way until the late in the fourth quarter. West took the lead on Dancy’s 8-yard run. Prior to that, the 5-8, 170-pound junior running back found a few seams in the Lathrop defense, picking up sizeable yardage.

A missed extra point try gave the Spartans some hope.

Chavez rallied Lathrop with several completions, including a pair to Reggie Carter and a 22-yard hook-up with Ogunbanwo, who had 15 more yards tacked on to play on a facemask infraction.

Chavez’s scramble put the ball to the West 6 in the closing seconds. But Lathrop’s last-ditch efforts stalled right there.

“We had a chance to win at the end,” said Wichman, who lost to one of his former coaches in Steve Anastasio