EL CENTRO — Friday the 13th more closely resembled a nightmare at Cal Jones Field for the Spartan football hopefuls as Gila Ridge sucked the soul out of Central’s perfect season with a 10-7 upset.
Central won the toss and elected to receive. The Spartan’s first offensive possession was the first of many three and outs.
The Gila Ridge offense stepped onto the field and took over on offense at their own 40-yard-line after a fielded punt.
After chewing up roughly five minutes of the first quarter on a 14-play drive, the Hawks booted in a field goal on a fourth and goal from the 9-yard-line to take the early 3-0 lead.
A third down incomplete pass forced another three and out to define the Spartan’s second offensive possession of the night.
Central’s defense stepped up during their second outing of the contest as Elias Dominguez batted down a fourth and three Gila Ridge pass attempt at the line of scrimmage to force a turnover on downs with 1:51 remaining in the opening period.
A Hawk interception disrupted Central’s ensuing drive which closed out the first quarter.
The Spartan defense returned the favor with a pic of their own by Michael Sullivan late in the second quarter.
On a second and 10, Gila Ridge blitzed and wrapped up Central quarter back Deniro Osuna, when the Spartans elected to let the last few seconds of the half tick away instead of compounding anymore damage.
The score remained 3-0 Hawks at intermission.
Midway through the third quarter, Gila Ridge strung together another time-grinding drive that took up four minutes and seven plays. In the Central red-zone on third down, Sullivan beat out the Hawk receiver for a jump-ball interception in the corner of the end zone.
Central was unable to move the chains as the Spartans were forced to punt again after three plays.
The Hawks took advantage of an interception with 8:40 left in the game and drove 75-yards in six plays to cap off the possession with a nine-yard touchdown pass by Gila quarterback Kaleb Cota to receiver Jalen Delorme. The Spartans found themselves in a 10-0 hole with 5:53 left to play.
Central showed a flicker of life, responding with a five-play 80-yard drive that resulted in an Angel Nava-Esparza rushing TD from three yards out. The Spartans were then down 10-7 with 4:48 remaining in the game.
The Spartans managed to stop Gila Ridge and forced a punt to take over possession near midfield with 2:12 to go.
The Hawk defense did not fold as Central was only able to advance three yards in four plays.
Gila Ridge took over at the 45-yard-line with 1:34 left in the game and Central with no timeouts.
The final whistle blew on the 10-7 Gila Ridge victory as the Hawks bled out the clock in victory formation.
“We just need to get back to the basics and make sure we clean stuff up,” said Central head coach David Pena. “Mistakes killed us so we have to come in on Monday and clean those up,” said Pena. “We gotta remember that football is a game of inches, and obviously we came up short tonight.”
Next up, the Spartans will travel to San Diego to face Christian September 20.