Lathrop High posted its biggest win ever in the short history of the program, edging out Sierra on Friday, 37-35.
With that, the Spartans are on the heels of their first-ever postseason berth, but will need a win at Kimball next week.
“This was our playoffs,” said Lathrop coach Joe Pirelli following the Valley Oak League victory at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.
In a game that featured plenty of big plays, the Spartans managed a pivotal third-quarter safety.
Michael Ramos put Lathrop (3-3 in league, 5-4 overall) ahead on a 6-yard touchdown run. Special teams play then pinned the Timberwolves down close to their 1.
On the first play, Sierra linebackers Tremayne Tuipuloto Willis Jr. and Iowa Ollie sacked in the quarterback in the end zone for a safety, extending the lead, 30-21.
The Spartans came out running in front of Sierra’s homecoming crowd.
Ramos broke loose for 43 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Brian Terrell followed suit with an 18-yard pick up.
Tuipuloto reeled off 11 more yards, setting up Jacob Devita’s 10-yard scoring run.
Sierra quickly answered back, going 46 yards on four plays. Jesse Babauta took a short pass from quarterback Mark Vicente, tying the game on the 10 yard play.
The Timberwolves (2-4, 4-5) went ahead briefly on Mark Paule’s 3-yard TD run. Vicente’s 18-yard scramble set up that play.
Terrell gave the Spartans good field position with a kickoff return to midfield.
“We came here to play for our playoff lives,” he said.
It didn’t take from there for quarterback Diego Chavez, who connected on 5 of his first 6 passes, to find Keenen Donatelli on a 40-yard scoring bomb, tying the game at 14-14.
The score stayed that way until early in the third quarter. The Spartans were at their own 4 when Chavez, on a third-down play, found Cameron Corner on a short pass that turned into a big play. The senior tight end found daylight, outracing the defense for a 94-yard TD.
The Timberwolves answered once again, with Wyatt, who moved over to quarterback, finding Vicente alone on the 48-yard score.
Chavez marched his team back, directing the drive consisting of three straight completions and capped off by Ramos scoring his second touchdown of the game.
After the safety, Lathrop held a 30-21 advantage.
Sierra received a boost from special teams. Joseph Dunham blocked a punt in the Spartans end zone and Dilpreet Singh recovered the loose ball for the touchdown.
Lathrop’s next possession featured the running of Terrell, who followed up his 47 yard gain with a 19 yard pickup.
“The difference was the lack of tackling on our part,” Sierra coach Jeff Harbison said.
The Devita touchdown, his second, made it 37-28.
The Timberwolves still had time to stage a comeback. Vicente found Jimmy Galindo on a 50-yard touchdown.
On the next possession, Mark Paule had a 42-yard gain, putting Sierra inside Lathrop territory in the final minute.
However, in the closing seconds, the Spartans finally secured the win thanks to a tipped pass that fell into the hands of Isaiah Hunter.
“That’s it, I said – now we can come out in (victory) formation,” Pirillo recalled.
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