Spartans explode in second half, roll RedHawks
It was the Mid-Valley League opener, but that's not the only thing that had East Nicolaus High coach John Dolenga concerned on Friday night.
Like most football coaches, Dolenga was worried that the Spartans' homecoming festivities may have been a distraction for an East Nicolaus squad looking to extend its winning streak to three games while slowly making headway in the Northern Section Division III power rankings.
Turns out, he had nothing to worry about.
Trailing by a point at halftime, the Spartans exploded for 26 unanswered points in the second half and ran away from Colusa in a 38-13 victory at Wahl Field.
Turnovers played a pivotal role in this one as the RedHawks lost four fumbles in the second half, allowing the Spartans to turn a tight game into a lopsided win.
"We made some adjustments at halftime and did all right after that," Dolenga said. "We just wanted to go back to our pro-set and ran our basic offense. Their turnovers helped us out, and we were able to take advantage."
The Spartans (4-2, 1-0) found the scoreboard first on a solid 68-yard drive on their second possession of the game. Standout quarterback Zach Schuler capped the march by hitting a wide open Francisco Silvas for an 11-yard TD pass, putting East Nic up 6-0.
Colusa (2-4, 1-0) answered back later in the first period on an 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by a short 1-yard plunge by Andrew Rodriguez. Fernando Amador booted the point-after kick and the RedHawks took a 7-6 lead.
Relying on a strong running game, the RedHawks were able to move the ball well throughout the first half and jumped ahead 13-6 when Rodriguez shook off a tackle in the backfield and juked three Spartan defenders en route to a slick 17-yard touchdown run.
However, Austin Scheiber scored on a 5-yard TD run with just 39 seconds remaining before the intermission to cut the lead to 13-12 before East Nic completely took over in the second half.
Colusa fumbled on its first three possessions of the third period and Jake McCallum, Colton Nelson and Trevor Goyet pounced on them to give the Spartans a surge of momentum they never relinquished.
Roman Anderson scored on a short touchdown run, and Schuler hit Wesley Morris in stride on a beautiful 21-yard TD pass to put East Nicolaus up 26-13 in the third period.
Jeffrey Limary added a score from 5 yards out and Silvas added a 1-yard plunge in the fourth quarter to complete the scoring for East Nicolaus.
Despite the 25-point margin of victory, Dolenga was quick to point out that the win didn't come easy.
"They are a good team. They've got a good coach and players who play hard," he said. "Getting this win is huge. We have to go to Quincy next week and that's never easy. We really wanted to get this one."
Dylan Purbaugh had a fumble recovery for East Nic and Reca River recovered a fumble for Colusa, which will travel to play 0-6 Esparto next week.