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Spartans defense delivers big time
FB--Lathrop vs. Ripon PIC 1 copy
Lathrop Highs Isaias Hunter comes down with the ball intended for Ripons Aaron Paschini ending a crucial drive that would have kept the Indians in the game in their non-league contest against the Spartans Friday night at Stouffer Field. Lathrop won 24-13. - photo by WAYNE THALLANDER/The Bulletin

It’s called game planning, and it’s something that every coach does before stepping onto the field on a given Friday night.

And it paid off in spades Friday night for the Lathrop High Spartans who walked into Stouffer Field, shut down the Ripon Indians’ high-scoring offense and took control of a small-school powerhouse that some might have said they didn’t have any business sharing the field with.

While the end result was far from flashy, the 24-13 victory was enough for first-year head coach Joey Pirillo to smile as he walked his team towards the sideline following the non-league contest.

“I thought that our defense came out tonight and played amazing,” Pirillo said. “We game planned for certain things and these kids came out and executed it the way that it was supposed to be executed – they played lights out Spartan football and I couldn’t be more proud of them than I am right now.

“They worked their tails off this week and you could see that when it mattered.”

The Indians, led by third-year starting quarterback Nick Price, found itself the subject of constant pressure from a Spartan defense that never let the strong-armed slinger get comfortable in the pocket. Forcing everything to the ground allowed Lathrop’s big inside presence to solidify, and the temp and speed that Ripon is known for slowed to a crawl.

Just two weeks ago Ripon came out and beat Sierra High School – a perennial Valley Oak League power – and fought a tough battle last week against small school megasquad Patterson. Getting manhandled by Lathrop – a team that has yet to put together a winning season since the program began – wasn’t supposed to be in the cards.

“We came out totally flat tonight and that’s a top-down kind of thing as the team’s leader I have to accept responsibility for that,” Ripon head coach Chris Johnson said. “Lathrop is a good football team and they came out and punched us right in the mouth and we just didn’t have anything to respond with.

“We didn’t play with that sense of urgency and that tempo that is needed in a game like this and when they came out and punched us the way that they did we kind of just rolled over for them. It was unacceptable.”

Lathrop quarterback Diego Chavez commanded the Spartan his offense with his 12-of-19 passing performance for 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jacob Devita served as a the workhorse back for Lathrop his 73 yards on 14 carries.

Ripon turned to Caleb McCusker to handle the bulk of the workload out of the backfield and he tallied 74 yards on 14 carries with a touchdown. Senior quarterback Nick Price completed 11 of his 15 passing attempts for 170 yards, a touchdown, and a costly interception that led to the Spartans running out the bulk of the clock in the fourth quarter.