High School Football

After long layoff, Spartans control destiny with big win over Rams

By Dennis Silva II | Sports Editor
Posted 11/14/20

Seven Lakes coach Jimmy Hamon was concerned his team would be rusty in its game against Mayde Creek on Friday following a 20-day layoff.

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High School Football

After long layoff, Spartans control destiny with big win over Rams

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Seven Lakes coach Jimmy Hamon was concerned his team would be rusty in its game against Mayde Creek on Friday following a 20-day layoff.

The Spartans had not played since an Oct. 23 overtime win over Morton Ranch. Since then, a scheduled open week followed by a week of suspended play due to a rash of COVID-19 cases on campus sidelined the Spartans.

Hamon was wary, nervous. And then his players went out and showed he had nothing to worry about.

Seven Lakes got ahead early on a Scott Stanford touchdown off a scoop of a blocked punt by senior Emilio Ramos deep in Mayde Creek territory 55 seconds into the game, and the Spartans never looked back for a crucial 38-26 win over the Rams on Nov. 13 at Legacy Stadium.

“To have something like that to happen early, it’s a gift,” Hamon said of the special teams score. “We took advantage of it.”

At 2-2 in District 19-6A, the win puts the Spartans (2-4 overall) in the driver’s seat for the fourth and final playoff spot. A win against Cinco Ranch next week secures Seven Lakes’ fifth playoff berth since it started varsity play in 2006.

“It feels amazing,” senior linebacker Adam North said. “To work this hard all summer and to go through the virus and the unexpected break, to be one win away from the playoffs is amazing.”

Mayde Creek and Seven Lakes each entered the game tied in district play at 1-2. With the win, the Spartans have a sole grasp on the fourth playoff spot. Mayde Creek (1-3 19-6A, 4-3 overall), Morton Ranch (1-4, 2-5) and Cinco Ranch (1-4, 1-6) are still in postseason contention but need help.

Seven Lakes, meanwhile, controls its own destiny.

“We’ve been talking about playoffs all summer,” said senior running back Nick David-West, who had 79 rushing yards and 68 receiving yards. “This was our one goal. It’s good to see all that hard work we put in is coming together.”

The Spartans jumped out to a 21-7 lead thanks in large part to senior quarterback Cristian Beltran.

Beltran’s first two pass completions went for touchdowns—a 26-yarder to junior receiver Grayson Medford and a short screen throw under heavy pressure to David-West for a 68-yard catch-and-run scamper—and he finished the game completing seven of nine passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns to no interceptions.

Hamon credited Beltran and the play-calling of offensive coordinator Matt Hoelscher for an offense that looked more explosive than it had all year, specifically noting Beltran’s read of a wide-open Beau Clewett for a 38-yard scoring strike with 7:58 left in the second quarter that put the Spartans ahead 28-14 at the half.

With assassin-like proficiency, Beltran exploited the Rams’ aggressiveness and horde pursuit blitzing along the defensive front, making quick reads and quicker throws to open receivers that often resulted in big plays.

Beltran averaged an impressive 17.9 yards per pass attempt, a welcomed dynamic to the Spartans’ typically potent ground game that produced 183 yards on 37 carries behind David-West, junior Michael Amico (71 yards) and senior Milton Jones (55 yards).

“We saw a lot of things we could expose from when they played Morton Ranch,” said Beltran, referring to the Rams’ 41-35 win over the Mavericks on Nov. 6. “Morton exposed a lot of weaknesses they had. They’re a good team, but we came in here confident and felt like we could get the job done.

“Running was there, passing was there. It was a great team effort.”

That, it was. While Beltran was directing a practically flawless offense, the defense kept the Rams at bay.

Mayde Creek senior running back Julius Loughridge, the district’s No. 1 back, compiled 193 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. But other than his jaw-dropping scoring runs of 66 and 90 yards, respectively, Loughridge managed just 37 yards on 18 carries.

“Compared to past games, we definitely swarmed better to the ball,” North said. “That was the biggest difference in our play. Our pursuit. (Loughridge) is a good back, so getting all 11 hats to him was the biggest part of our game-plan.”

Mayde Creek scored two touchdowns, each via 18-yard catches by senior receiver Alpha Khan from senior quarterback Jace Wilson, in the final three minutes to make the game closer than it actually was.

The Rams outgained the Spartans 389-344 in total yards, but 13 penalties for 95 yards doomed them. Mayde Creek got little going in the passing game, averaging 6.1 yards per pass attempt, and after he compiled 163 yards on his first seven carries, Loughridge’s biggest run over his final 13 totes was eight yards.

“Overall, we forced them to make drives, we got them into third down a lot,” senior defensive lineman Hayden Pratt said. “We could’ve converted a bit more, but other than that I thought we played great.”

While the 20-day hiatus wasn’t ideal, the Spartans did the best they could with it. Every day of practice was fast and hard. Conditioning was a heavy point of emphasis. Focus did not wane; if anything, it was stronger.

“For two weeks, they had to wait to play,” Hamon said. “I was real nervous if we could come out and execute, and we showed in the first half we were going to do that. I was worried if they were going to be able to handle the speed of the game, and I thought they handled that just fine.”

Pratt said the team handled adversity well.

“We were able to get some practices in that were real important in this win,” he said. “We had a lot of time to work and we had a lot of time to get healthy. We had a lot of guys hurt and I think it helped getting people rested.”

And now, Seven Lakes holds its fate in its own hands.

“I couldn’t ask for much better,” Hamon said. “I feel good that we’re where we need to be.”

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