After a strong start to the season, the undersized La Cañada High offensive line couldn't hold up against Maranatha's big defensive line.
As a result, the Spartans had five drives that ended with no points, giving them no chance to outshoot the Minutemen's high-powered offense, as Maranatha rolled to a 43-21 nonleague victory Friday at La Cañada.
The Spartans couldn't establish a running game, as their offensive line couldn't get much of a push or open many holes for their backs. Whenever La Cañada's quarterback, Scott Gray, dropped back to pass, he had little time to find a receiver, as defenders were bearing down on him.
By the end of the night, Gray had been sacked five times for a total loss of 56 yards. He walked off the field twice, suffering minor injuries to his left elbow.
"They had a couple of horses up front that gave us some difficulty," La Cañada Coach Dan Yoder said. "I think that caused some confusion in terms of where help needed to come from. We tried to talk about it at the half but we just didn't do a good enough job coaching them on how to adjust to that."
On the other side of the field, Maranatha quarterback Andrew Elfers gave the Spartans fits, finishing the night eight of 18 for 153 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried in one of Maranatha's touchdowns.
Maranatha started out the scoring with a seven-play, 90-yard drive, which was highlighted by a 27-yard screen pass from Elfers to halfback Chris Cornell, taking them into the red zone. Two plays later, Elfers faked a handoff to a wide receiver in motion and ran it in himself for a nine-yard rushing touchdown, putting them up, 7-0.
Gray answered back, however, mimicking Elfers as he took the ball on a rollout, dodged two defenders and rushed into the end zone from 13 yards out, tying the game at 7.
Elfers proved he wasn't a one-trick pony two drives later, hitting receiver Josh Jones with a pass in stride for a 40-yard touchdown pass to give the visitors a 13-7 lead after a missed extra point.
A field goal put the Minutemen up, 16-7, at the half with all the momentum. The Spartans were able to hold Maranatha to a three-and-out on their opening drive of the third quarter.
Gray gave La Cañada a ray of hope on the ensuing drive. Faced with a fourth-and-one situation at Maranatha's 19, he took the ball on a sneak, expecting just to move the chains. However, a hole opened up and he was able to run for another touchdown, trimming the lead to, 16-14.
The Spartans' defense failed to keep up with the Minutemen's offense for the rest of the night, giving up four touchdowns on the next five Maranatha drives, putting them up, 43-14, after another missed extra point.
La Cañada halfback Kevin Stoner was able to notch a late touchdown, carrying the ball 38 yards for a score with little more than a minute left in the game for the final score.
"We had some success tonight, we just didn't string them all together," Yoder said. "If you string them all together then you're golden. It's that consistency, we need to do it play after play."
If the Spartans want to achieve their goal of going deep into the playoffs this year, they have to come ready to play, Yoder told his team after the game.
"We've just got to be hungry," Yoder said. "Every team is going to be different. It's not getting any easier."