W. Ranch 0 6 7 0 — 13
Lathrop 0 7 0 7 — 14
L — Aaron Ramones 13 run (Anthony Cuellar kick), 8:56.
W — De’antae Lavan 48 run (kick blocked), 1:33.
W — Deandre Lavan 4 run (Mauricio Morales Gonzales kick), 3:33.
L — Jeremiah Estante 2 run (Cuellar kick), 0:26.
LATHROP — The Battle of I-5 trophy stays in Lathrop for another year.
Despite a dominant second half by visiting Weston Ranch, the sputtering Spartans mustered enough energy to pull out a dramatic 14-13 victory Friday at Bennie Gatto Field.
Jeremiah Estante, playing through an achy lower back, scored the game-tying touchdown from 2 yards out with 26 seconds remaining. Anthony Cuellar catapulted Lathrop into the lead for good with the ensuing point-after kick. Standout defensive lineman Harold Gary factors heavily into the outcome, as he earlier blocked a Weston Ranch PAT in the first half.
The win was secured when Kameron Jones batted down a deep pass from Namir Brown-Sanger at the Lathrop 35-yard line with no time left.
“This team is starting to understand what it takes to win,” first-year Lathrop coach Ryan Teicheira said. “That last drive we put together, my boys were tired. They played dang near a whole half of defensive ball and guys are going both ways. It speaks volumes of what this team has been doing since the summer. They’ve bought in.”
The Spartans (2-1) have won back-to-back games for the first time since 2016. They’ve also evened their all-time series with Weston Ranch at 5-5, taking the last five. Friday marked the revival of the rivalry after a three-year hiatus.
“The kids talked about this all week,” Teicheira said. “It’s new to me, so not really ever being part of it I didn’t realize how big it is. But these are two schools in towns right next to each other and I think we’re pretty evenly matched. They have a lot of talent. This is Lathrop versus Weston Ranch and hopefully we can keep it going for years to come.”
For Weston Ranch (1-2), this reunion was as encouraging as it was heartbreaking. The Cougars, who trailed 7-6 at halftime, put together impressive drives in each of the last two quarters. Their opening drive of the second half lasted 8 minutes, 22 seconds and culminated in a 4-yard touchdown run by Deandre Lavan (13 rushes, 45 yards).
Lavan and his brother De’antae (seven rushes, 97 yards) — both sophomores — accounted for much of the Ranch’s 205 yards of offense as they found open running lanes provided by their hulking linemen.
The Cougars’ second drive of the half ate up 7:49 of clock but stalled out at the Lathrop 30. They totaled four fourth-down conversions in the two series, flashing their smash-mouth potential in the process.
“This team is special,” second-year Weston Ranch coach Ron Wayman said. “They’re young but they fight hard. The inexperienced showed tonight, but we’re onto something really special here at Weston Ranch."
Lathrop started its game-winning drive with 3:13 to go. Going into it, several of the Spartans’ top players — RB Aaron Ramones, QB/LB Luis Hernandez, TE/DB Isiah Miravite-Baumgardner and RB/DB Estante — had gone down with a variety of ailments. Lathrop’s only other series of the half was a three-and-out highlighted by quarterback sacks from Zyale Brown-Sanger and Christopher Buttram.
The Wing-T offense lifted off in the end. The Spartans played uptempo, the line provided the push front and the playmakers made plays. Noah Martinez (12 rushes, 75 yards), Ramones (nine rushes, 100 yards, touchdown) and Estante (seven rushes, 30 yards) all had positive gains in the ground attack leading up to deciding score.
“It was everybody,” Estante said of the team’s clutch effort. “We put our heads down for a second but realized that hey, we can play. My back was killing me but I had to go out back there.”
He got to experience past Battle of I-5 victories as a ball boy for the program and called this moment, “one of the best experiences of my life.”
Ramones scored the first touchdown of the game with 8:56 left in the second quarter, scooting 13 yards on the play. Lathrop missed an opportunity to strike on its game-opening drive but lost a fumble recovered by Deandre Lavan on the 13-yard line.
The two teams combined for five first-half turnovers. Cougars sophomore lineman Alex Walker recovered a fumble and had two sacks.
Lathrop’s defense also came up with big plays, forcing three giveaways. Jones had an interception and recovered a fumble forced by Martinez. Miravite-Baumbardner also picked off a pass.
De’antae Lavan scampered 48 yards for Weston Ranch’s first-half touchdown with 1:33 remaining. The Cougars were otherwise limited to just 59 yards in the half.
“It’s a heartbreaking loss,” Wayman said. “We dominated the second half, played even in the first half, but the inexperience and the youngness of our players showed at the end of the game. It’ll come with time. I give my team mass kudos.”