EL CENTRO – It was a surprisingly tight game down the stretch as the Spartans of Central pulled out a late score, winning their tenth consecutive title, 27-20, over the Southwest Eagles.
Scoring for the night started with a fumbled recovery return from Joseph Valbuena which had the Spartans threatening halfway through the first quarter. Â A run by Spartan playmaker, Christian Ramirez, and aÂ Pete Sanchez quarterback keeper for a seven-yard touchdown, gave the Spartans the early 7-0 lead.
Just before the quarter ended, Julio Rodriguez added to the score with a touchdown run putting the Spartans up two scores, a missed extra point kept themÂ at 13-0.
The second quarter proved to be all Eagles as Nigel Rabb capped off an Eagle drive with a five-yard touchdown drive, again, a botched extra point left the Eagles down 13-6 withÂ 8:40Â to go in the half.
After an interception by Eagle defensive back, Luke Sanders, on Centralâ€™s next possession, Nigel Rabb finally broke through, and on one play went 42 yards for the score, tying the gameÂ at 13-13.
Going into the second half, Southwest had the momentum but an intentional grounding put the ball too far from the first down marker, forcing the Eagles to punt.
Then, a six play, sixty-yard drive had Central up 20-13, the drive capped by a Pete Sanchez 27-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Valbuena.
The Eagles took over and almost tied the game on a long drive, but as the Eagles flew into the red zone, the Spartan defense clamped down and forced a turnover, giving the Spartans possession of the ball at their own 20-yard line.
The Spartans now possessed all the momentum and were about to seal the win, but a miscommunication gave way to a lost fumble to the Eagles in the first play of the Spartan drive, this time at the Spartan eleven-yard line. Â From there, three plays culminated in a ten-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Edward Romero to Rabb, tying the score again, 20-20.
With the score tied, it was now time for both El Centro teams to showcase their defenses holding off opposing offenses for much of the fourth quarter.
But in the end, it was the Central Spartans that found the needed big play when in the third and long, Bryan Valenzuela took a screen pass thirty-eight yards, all the way to the Eagleâ€™s twelve-yard line.
Then, on third and 10 from the Eagle 12-yard line, Pete Martinez found Joseph Valbuena for a highlight-reel, toe-tap catch in the end zone, taking the score to the final of 27-20, with just over four minutes left in the game.
The Eagles had one more possession to try and force a tie, or possible win, but the Spartan defense rose to the challenge forcing a turnover on downs, icing the game.
On the night for Central, Pete Sanchez went 5 of 10 passing for 102 yards with two touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown. Â Christian Ramirez had 15 carries for 109 yards, and Julio Rodriguez added 50 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Â Joseph Valbuena finished the night with three receptions for 62 yards and two touchdowns.
Up next, the Spartans will change their role from this weekâ€™s favorite to next weekâ€™s underdog, as they try to dethrone the current IVL, undefeated, Brawley Union High School in the Annual Bell Game on the road in Brawley.