LATHROP — It took Lathrop just over a minute to score the first touchdown of the game Friday night against the visiting West Wolf Pack at Bennie Gatto Field.
And then the defense made sure that lead would never be fully challenged in the season-opening 33-16 victory.
But it was a first game in many respects for the Spartans, who had trouble late in the game not drawing penalties and containing the depleted but still dangerous Wolf Pack that amassed most of its yardage when the game was already put away.
“I was proud of our guys for executing tonight and taking advantage of the momentum that they created,” Lathrop head coach Joe Pirillo said. “Some of those mistakes were to be expected with the first game and a lot of guys going both ways there in the second half, but we showed up tonight.
“Now it’s time to work on some of those mistakes and get ready for the challenge of taking on a very good opponent next week in Hilmar.”
It took just four plays for Lathrop to move the ball 62 yards on the game’s opening drive capped off by a Mariano Rocha 1-yard dive to put the Spartans on the board.
As a sign of his belief to not take his foot off of the throttle, Pirillo opted to go for it on fourth down on the ensuing drive when failing to do so would have put West within five yards of the red zone —converting but failing to convert the gutsy move into points.
That conversion would come on the next drive when Michael Ramos rumbled from 10-yards out to extend the Lathrop lead into double-digits, and give the Spartans all of the momentum heading in the game’s second quarter.
“We started off a little bit slow, but then the holes started opening up and I started seeing the field much better and it allowed me to get some good runs,” said Ramos, who finished with 110 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. “We worked hard all summer on fixing our mistakes and learning to execute when we had the opportunity, and we did that tonight — there are still things that we need to work on, but we played as a team on both sides of the ball.
It was the second quarter and Lathrop’s defensive effort, however, that sealed the fate of the Wolf Pack.
A touchdown with 8:44 left in the first half threatened to turn the game into a race, but the Spartan defense swung the pendulum back with 4:33 left in the half when Stanley Becerra blocked a West punt that was recovered by Jesus Bucio and ultimately converted into a 19-yard touchdown pass from Keonnee Linnell to Mattox Harell that gave Lathrop a 21-7 lead.
On the ensuing Wolf Pack offensive drive, Ayiende Dukes stepped in front a deep pass for the unit’s only turnover of the night and returned it 70-yards to extend the lead to 27-7 heading into halftime.
“I loved it..They all started to roll to the ball so that all 11 guys can get into the frame at once,” Pirillo said of the defensive swarm. “It’s very important to take advantage of those opportunities, and they helped us do that tonight.”
Linnell finished the night 5-of-14 from the pocket for 96 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while Rocha amassed 19 yards on nine carries with a touchdown.
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