Ceres 6 0 0 0 — 6
Lathrop 7 6 0 10 —23
C — Eli Beltran 33 pass from Verlis Smith (pass failed), 8:15.
L — Aaron Ramones 7 run (Anthony Cuellar kick) 0:44.
L — Ramones 12 run (kick blocked), 9:21.
L — Cuellar 22 FG, 11:45
L — Jeremy Buck 11 run (Cuellar kick) 0:57.
LATHROP — Friday's Western Athletic Conference opener at Lathrop against visiting Ceres was still up for grabs entering the fourth quarter.
Lathrop had the slight lead thanks to a pair of touchdown runs by senior Aaron Ramones.
But then a field goal by Anthony Cuellar coupled with lineman-turned-ball carrier Jeremy Buck scoring in the final minute in securing the 23-6 victory for the Spartans (1-0, 3-1).
"Our defense held on," said Lathrop coach Ryan Teicheira, who was aware that the Bulldogs were capable of points on the board at any time.
His team kept the likes of Tarrell Lee-Gill, Josh Pestridge, Kahmi Smith from finding the end zone. Ceres (0-1, 2-2) had its best offensive sequence at the top of the game.
Eli Beltran advanced the opening kickoff to midfield. From there, the Bulldogs battled back from penalties, a few misfires on the ground game and fourth-and-long situation. Quarterback Verlis Smith, who scrambled for first-down yardage twice on the drive, connected with Beltran on the 33-yard touchdown pass.
Ceres missed on the two-point conversion pass play.
Lathrop answered back with a time-consuming 11-play drive.
The Spartans were helped out by a pass-interference call on the Bulldogs and a 21-yard pass play from quarterback Luis Hernandez to Jeremiah Green. Ramones scooted seven yards to the end zone. Cuellar's extra-point kick gave Lathrop a 7-6 lead entering the second quarter.
On its next possession, Noah Martinez broke loose for a 35-yard run, putting his team back in business.
Ramones followed that up with a 12-yard touchdown run.
Both teams survived turnovers.
Ceres defensive back Austin Munguia upended another Spartan score with an interception and the Spartans' Josiah Pena recovered a fumble.
It wasn't until early in the fourth that Lathrop finally tacked on to its 13-6 lead with Cuellar booting a 22-yard field goal.
"Anthony has done a good job kicking for us all year. We were confident that he would execute if given the shot," said Teicheira, who later put the ball in the hands of his 270-pound senior tackle late in the game in an effort to run out the clock.
"I have to thank the guys up front," said Buck, who scored on the 11-yard run in the final minute.
He added: "It was an amazing feeling to score my first-ever touchdown. I turned the corner and saw it was a wide open path to the end zone."
Buck credited fellow lineman Dante Johnson for helping clear the way on the play.
Ceres managed 155 yards on the ground on 32 carries. Smith, who picked up 50 yards on six carries, completed 4 of his 11 passes for 64 yards and a score.
Ramones led the Spartans with 81 yards on 14 carries. Martinez chipped in with 79 yards on 20 attempts while Jeremiah Estante tallied 33 yards on nine tries.