For the third straight week, the East Nicolaus High football team battled an out of the area team from a different section.
Thanks to Friday’s ball-hawking aggressive defense, the Spartans came away with their second win and first at home, 14-6 over Bradshaw Christian of Sacramento.
East Nicolaus (2-1) turned Bradshaw Christian over twice in the second half, both times in Spartan territory. After the second one – a fumble recovery by Devin Hatcher – East Nicolaus ran out of the clock courtesy of a couple first-down carries by senior quarter Gavin Mcauliff, who finished with a team-high 103 yards on 12 carries and a score.
“It was a great battle for us,” East Nicolaus coach Travis Barker said. “Their offense is a ball control offense, we knew it would be tough to stop. Our boys stayed strong and rallied when they needed to.”
Both Barker and Mcauliff, who plays free safety for East Nicolaus, admitted that the defense was Friday’s hero against a team with star power in the backfield. After getting shutout in the first half, Bradshaw Christian running back Jeremiah Bonner-Hayes rumbled home for a 27-yard touchdown in the third quarter to get the Pride on the board down 14-6 after the missed 2-point conversion.
“(Bonner-Hayes) and (Evan Zeppieri) are great athletes right there, you’re not going to (play) anybody faster than those two kids,” Mcauliff said.
Though both Hayes and Zeppieri would break big runs throughout the second half, East Nicolaus kept Sac Joaquin Division VI power off the scoreboard again.
Moments after the Bradshaw backfield duo helped the visitors get inside the E. Nicolaus 30-yard line, the Spartan defense would come again with perhaps a game-changing play. On fourth-and-10, Zack Scoggins picked off Elijah Christian’s pass just outside the Spartan 10-yard line.
East Nicolaus’ drive would eventually stall,, setting it up for the defense to shine once again with the game-preserving fumble recovery.
“Defensively our ends tore it up tonight, they sacrificed their bodies,” Mcauliff said. “Everyone contributed on defense. It’s tough, we got 23 kids on our team so we really have no depth. We just got to condition harder.”
Barker, though disappointed in the second-half offense, said it was refreshing to see the defense come through all night.
“It was pretty sloppy with our penalties that really made the game closer than it should have been, but what I really wanted to see was the intensity,” Barker said. “They fired up and played great.”
Sophomore middle linebacker Garrett McCray had two sacks, while defensive end Josh Grotegeer aided the team’s attack with a first-half sack.
On the offensive side, senior JT Stinson finished with five carries for 50 yards. He scored the Spartans’ first touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Mcauliff.
East Nicolaus junior varsity kicked off Friday’s doubleheader with a 20-8 win over Bradshaw Christian.
The Spartans (2-1) will play at Pierce next week.