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Spartans hang tough in loss
Late picks carry WR over first-year Lathrop
Weston Ranch wide receiver Angell Mayfield breaks away from Lathrop’s Alfonzo Gonzalez along the sideline for the first touchdown of the game just minutes into the first quarter. - photo by HIME ROMERO
WESTON RANCH – On paper, the Lathrop Spartans weren’t supposed to stand a chance when they took the field to face the Weston Ranch Cougars on Friday night.

They had been decimated by the Sierra Timberwolves, 55-0,  the week before – the first of three teams in their non-league schedule that they’ll join in the Valley Oak League next year – and were going to face a program that qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs in just its second varsity season (2005).

And for the first 36 minutes of the game, it looked like the Spartans might be the second Manteca Unified team to crack that nearly unbreakable mold as they carried a 7-7 tie into the fourth quarter of what most thought would have been a mere walkthrough.

It would be Weston Ranch’s stingy defense, however, that would swing the door open by intercepting two of Pablo Chavez’ passes and running them back for touchdowns inside of the game’s waning moments, blowing the door open to a 21-7 lead with less than six minutes left in the contest.

Deon Eley, who took one of the interceptions back 8 yards to spark the defensive rally, would put the final nail in the coffin when he scampered in for a touchdown that would end the game with a 27-7 margin.

Weston Ranch head coach Mike Hale couldn’t help but comment about the lack of concentration and focus that allowed Lathrop to keep its foot in the door early, committing a series of offsides penalties.

“We definitely had some breakdowns out there tonight, and they were mistakes that you’re just not supposed to make when it comes to a game-time situation,” Hale said. “I think that Lathrop showed that they’re on their way to becoming a great program because of their resiliency, but tonight I saw some things that I know we’re going to have to work on if we’re going to get better as a team.”

The night itself started off with a bang when the Cougars (1-1) turned their first uninterrupted offensive snap from scrimmage into a 50-yard scamper by Angell Mayfield.

While Collins was able to find some receivers, including the speedy Jason Steele, he was unable to find the end zone and had trouble finding targets that were locked down by Lathrop’s young and undersized secondary.

According to Lathrop coach Jesse Rodriguez, both age and size are often things that teams tend to focus on more than they should, and noted that he was proud of how his squad hung in with a much bigger and faster group of players that represent a program that has already reached the postseason level he aspires to achieve relatively soon.

“I thought that our kids played really hard tonight, and when we were able to get that drive going against their defense I think that really said something,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve got 18 sophomores out there for us and not very many of those kids are big enough to intimidate the guys they’re lining up against.

“But they play smart football and they work hard and we’re hoping to show teams that it takes a lot more than just size to make a football player. My hat goes off to Coach Hale for what he was able to accomplish tonight, and we just have to take this experience and learn from it before we come back out next week.”

Collins finished the game with four of five passes completed for 78 total yards. Mayfield carried the ball for the Cougars four times and racked up 64 yards, while Eley – who was also dominant on defense with his interception return – finished the game with seven carries for 31 yards and a rushing touchdown.