Photo by Oscar Walsh
Junior running back Ivan Estrada showcased his quickness and agility with the ball on Friday night, leading the Tigers to a 27-13 win over La Cañada with three rushing touchdowns. The win represented South Pas’ first league victory and concluded an underwhelming season on a positive note. After losing lopsidedly in their first three league games, South Pas controlled the line of scrimmage and dominated in the running game to improve their final record to 1-3 in league and 3-7 overall.
On La Cañada’s homecoming night, the game started similar to the rest of South Pas’s league losses. The Tiger defense allowed the weak Spartan team to pass its way down the field and score a short rushing touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. However, this time, the Tiger offense responded with a scoring drive of their own. With senior Jaden Gallego under center, the offense primarily ran inside the tackles with a few occasional outside tosses. Estrada capped off the drive with a 15 yard touchdown run behind a Tiger offensive line that was able to consistently open holes in the Spartan defense.
On their next drive, Gallego mishandled the ball on a snap, turning over the ball to the Spartans at midfield. While the turnover created a familiar uneasy tension on the Tiger sideline, South Pas responded once again when junior Samuel Luna-Long picked off a weak throw by the opposing quarterback. The Tiger offense took advantage of the takeaway and once again marched down the field with their rushing attack. Following a first down rush from senior Jacob Barnes, Estrada broke one tackle before speeding past the entire Spartan defense for a 50 yard touchdown. The combination of Barnes’ physical rushing up the middle and Estrada’s speed outside the hashes was too much for the Spartan defense to contain.
“I knew our lineman had a better matchup against La Cañada’s line; they did a great job of creating lanes for Ivan and Barnes to run through,” Coach Chi said. “The team never quit, and kept fighting till the end, to finish the season with a win.”
On the ensuing Spartan drive, the Tiger defense was able to force a punt after preventing La Cañada from finding any rushing success. Barnes and senior Jove Yates were able to shake La Cañada blockers to take down ball carriers. When South Pas received the ball back on a punt, the league matchup started to become very chippy. Between offensive holding and unnecessary roughness calls, penalties were called on almost every play. However, after a 30 yard run on a fake punt from Luna-Long, the Tigers found themselves in the red zone with a chance to take a two-score lead. Following three consecutive personal fouls on the Spartan defense, the referees stopped the game to hold a discussion between players from both teams. While Gallego was able to punch the ball into the endzone for a 1 yard QB sneak, the contentious nature of the game would continue into the second half; two Spartan players were ejected later in the game.
Despite having a 21-10 lead, the second half didn’t start off well for South Pas. The Tigers surrendered a field goal to the Spartans after an Estrada fumble gave away possession of the ball. Estrada quickly responded, however, with an electrifying 50 yard touchdown on the next drive. On a crucial third and six, Estrada took what seemed to be a routine handoff up the middle. After evading a Spartan defender, the junior speedster bounced out to the right sideline, shook off a second wimpy tackler with a spin move, and scampered down the sideline into the endzone to take a 27-10 lead.
With a comfortable lead, SPHS continued to run the ball in the fourth quarter to chew time off the clock. After a second Spartan field goal, the Tiger defense was able to hold La Cañada scoreless for the remainder of the game. As the final seconds ticked off the clock at Spartan Stadium, the teary-eyed SPHS seniors celebrated on the sideline, knowing that they had proudly played the final game of their high school careers.
“It feels so great to get this win,” senior Nathaniel Quirk said. Overcome with emotion, the offensive lineman added, “Even though we’re all banged up and injured, everyone still worked hard and we were able to get this win.”
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