It was a game of turnovers when the La Cañada High football team went head-to-head with San Marino Friday night.
Eleven turnovers were committed (La Cañada had five and San Marino had six), but the Spartans were able to come out of the game with a victory, notching a 21-7 Rio Hondo League win, giving La Cañada a 5-4 overall record (3-1 in league), while dropping the Titans to 2-7.
"It wasn't our best win, but a win's a win," La Cañada quarterback Scott Gray said. "We didn't play our best, but we played better than [they did], and that's all you need to do to win."
Victory came on senior night for the Spartans, in what could also be La Cañada's final home game of the 2010 season.
"I've got a lot of love for this class," Spartans Coach Dan Yoder said. "Getting a win on potentially their last home game is big."
It could have been a different story if it wasn't for La Cañada's senior cornerback, Jeff Barker. Barker made his night count, picking off two passes — one in La Cañada's end zone and another at the Spartans' 2-yard line.
"When you pick a ball off in the end zone, or at the 2, you're stopping a team from scoring; it doesn't get much bigger than that," Yoder said. "It was a good night for him."
Barker's coaches have been wondering where his interceptions have been, after Barker became known for his take-aways two years ago. He's spent most of the season on the bench, until getting a chance to start three weeks ago.
"I think I took advantage of it," Barker said. "I've been playing with a chip on my shoulder all season, it felt good to finally get some big plays on defense."
Of the Spartans' miscues, four came on fumbles and one was an interception. Thankfully for La Cañada, the mistakes were contagious, as Titan's quarterback Kody Gerrick threw five interceptions.
It was scoreless for most of the first half but that changed when Gray broke a 50-yard touchdown for the first points of the game, giving La Cañada a 7-0 lead with 5:02 left in the first half.
The Spartans kept rolling on their next drive. Looking for some breathing room, Gray hit receiver Jay Kolina with a 29-yard pass as he charged down the sideline, 16-yards short of the end zone. Two plays later, Gray finished the drive, hitting receiver Matt Faber over the middle for a 21-yard touchdown pass, giving the Spartans a 14-0 lead at the end of the first half with just under two minutes to go in the second quarter.
Gray finished the day with two touchdowns, one through the air and another on the ground, and 166 total yards (99 rushing and 67 passing).
Despite Gerrick's five interceptions, he was still able to connect at times on Friday. He finished the game completing 11 of 27 pass attempts for 247 yards. He was also responsible for San Marino's only touchdown, hitting receiver Steve Woods on a slant that went for a 70-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Woods was Gerrick's favorite target, ending the game with six receptions for 149 yards.
The Titan's touchdown trimmed the deficit to 14-7 but La Cañada distanced themselves again with 1:09 left in the third quarter when fullback Lucas Gauthier scored his first touchdown of the season on a two-yard run. Gauthier did a bit of everything Friday night, blocking a punt and notching an interception to go along with his first touchdown.
La Cañada will hope for another impressive-defensive effort next week in the team's biggest game of the year against Monrovia. The Wildcats are undefeated in league (4-0) and have only given up seven points to Rio Hondo opponents all year. Even if the Spartans don't pull off the upset against Monrovia, they can still make the playoffs with a Temple City victory against South Pasadena.