Lathrop has certainly earned the respect of its opponents this year, but that hasn’t translated into any wins so far.
After absorbing a couple of harsh blows against Manteca and Sierra the last two Fridays, the Spartans (0-3 Valley Oak League, 0-6 overall) feel like their due now more than ever.
Lathrop is slated to play East Union (0-3, 1-5) on Friday. The Spartans will have their stadium dedicated in honor of former Manteca High star and Stanford All-American Paul Wiggin, who grew up in Lathrop.
“We’ve been able to move the ball against the best of them,” Lathrop head coach Steve Wichman said. “We moved the ball against Manteca and Sierra, and those are two teams that are at the top of their games in our league.
“We’re placing an emphasis on taking care of the ball this week. If we do that, we’ll have a good chance against East Union.”
The Lancers and Spartans are still searching for their first VOL victory, and Lathrop is looking for its first win of the season, period.
Lathrop opened its league schedule with a heart-breaking 35-29 loss against Weston Ranch, followed by another pair of lopsided losses against VOL contenders Manteca and Sierra. The Spartans have only scored 10.6 points per game on offense and are giving up 37.3 defensively.
EU, on the other hand, is giving up a little less on the defensive end (34 points per game). Offensively, the Lancers are scoring 17.5 per game despite being shut out twice this season.
“We need to try and stop their run offense,” Wichman said. “They like to run the football and they’re pretty successful at doing that. We also have to eliminate their big-play opportunities. They’re pretty good at setting up the play-action (pass) because they run so much. But our run defense has been one of the best components of our defense.
“What we’ve struggled with is our secondary giving up big plays.”
The Lancers are only averaging 27 receiving yards per game this year and haven’t passed very much at all. East Union picks up just under 210 on the ground on average.
EU has been bitten by the injury bug all season, and it’s a legitimate concern for the coaching staff every single week.
“This program is very hungry,” East Union head coach Willie Herrera said of Lathrop. “Coach (Wichman) over there does a fantastic job. It looks totally different than last year. They have had some fantastic drives on film and they look very methodical.
“Our thing all year has been one game at a time. We’ve had some very good practices this week, especially (Wednesday). We had a very energetic, positive practice. We’re looking for every opportunity to be successful on Friday.
“We want to get our rushing attack going. Penalties have plagued us and those are definitely things we want to erase.”
Also this Friday:
— Manteca (3-0 VOL, 5-1 overall) earned a benchmark victory for 12th-year coach Eric Reis last Friday. The Buffaloes’ 35-20 win over Oakdale was their first at The Corral under Reis, who on the same night notched his 100th career triumph.
Up next is a Kimball team (2-1, 3-3) riding the momentum of back-to-back home wins, most recently against Weston Ranch, 48-27. Running back Gaige Allen sparked the Jaguars with his most productive outing of the season (195 yards, 5 total TDs) and is the featured weapon in their wing-T. He averages 10.6 yards per carry with 764 rushing yards and 12 scores.
Kimball has struggled against elite opponents since its competitive 28-19 loss to undefeated Patterson in Week 1. The offense was held to 13 points in consecutive defeats to Tracy and Sierra, and defensively the Jags will be up against Manteca’s balanced attack that has scored no less than 27 points in a game.
— Breakout performances from sophomore receiver Erron Duncan (240 yards, TD) and RB Quamante Battle (90 yards, TD) were not enough for Weston Ranch (1-2 VOL, 2-4 overall) to overcome Kimball in Tracy a week ago.
Now, the Cougars head to the hills to face traditional power Sonora (1-2, 1-5), which is coming off its first win of the season. Sonora’s record is misleading with all of its losses coming against top programs, but the Wildcats have reached a soft spot in their rigid schedule that gives them a chance to win four straight going into their Week-10 tussle with rival Oakdale.
— Delhi (0-3, 3-3) started the season with three straight wins before dropping their first three Southern League contest. It doesn’t get easier for the Hawks, who are hosting a Ripon Christian squad (3-0, 5-1) that obliterated Turlock Christian, 84-0.
Ripon Christian can at least expect more resistance from its next three opponents (Waterford, Gustine) before squaring off with Le Grand for what is expected to be the SL’s championship game. Delhi is led by three-way producer Ricco McCombs and QB Garret Thomas, the team’s top rusher with 456 yards and eight scores.
— Jonamar Jacinto contributed to this report