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Spartans hold on for first home victory
Andrew Aquino gets taken down by a Highlands player after gaining some tough yards during Lathrop High’s first-ever home victory Friday. For additional photos, visit - photo by Photo by CHRIS LEONARD
LATHROP — With a solid lead in the fourth quarter, it looked like Lathrop High was well on its way to a second straight victory.

But Highlands quarterback Kurtis Stamm had different plans after earlier connecting for two passes for a combined 90 yards, though they didn’t lead to any points.

When the fourth quarter rolled around, he hit his stride.
Stamm would end up passing for 275 yards and two touchdowns, but the Scots came up short as Lathrop held on for the 16-14 victory. The win is the first-ever at its home stadium.

Stamm hooked up with Jeremiah Parker for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 1:10 remaining, but his two-point conversion pass failed to uphold Lathrop’s lead.

The difference was a safety scored by the Lathrop defense in the third quarter.

 “Two wins a row is a good building block, and we’ve been competitive, but we just finish drives,” said Lathrop head coach Jesse Rodriguez. “Right now our guys aren’t happy with the way we finished that game, and they shouldn’t be happy. Winning two games is a good building block, but they know that they can do better.”

The Spartans (2-1) rode running backs Christian Pena and Andrew Aquino — who combined for 274 rushing yards — to victory.

Pena accounted for both of Lathrop’s scored from just a few yards out from the goal line, while Aquino proved to be the workhorse back that ground out yardage and made play happen when they weren’t otherwise there.

“I felt good out there tonight, but we still need to pick it up,” said Aquino, who finished with 150 yards rushing on 14 carries. “We just need to work harder because we have a tough league season coming up. I was proud of how our line played tonight, but as a team, we need to strive to do better.”

It took Lathrop just over a quarter to find the end zone when Pena scrapped in from 3 yards out. He would do the same from the 1-yard-line later in the quarter after two previous attempts at breaking the plane failed.

But getting pressure on Stamm, who single-handedly picked apart the Lathrop defensive backfield during the game’s second half, would eventually come.

Brandon Parkonnen, who had struggled almost all game against Highlands’ pass protection, secured two key sacks that helped force punts that gave Lathrop the chance to help run down the clock.

He was also in a massive defensive pack that pulled down Stamm in the end zone for the safety.

“They blocked well up front, and we just couldn’t get to him,” Rodriguez said. “We were giving too much time, but we finally started to break through and that proved to be a big part of the game.”