LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Both the La Cañada and Temple City high football teams came into Friday night's Rio Hondo League game desperate for a win. The Rams were looking for their first win of the season, while the Spartans were looking for No. 2 and to break a five-game skid.
La Cañada came out and played with more confidence than an average one-win squad and rolled through Temple City, 44-27.
Spartans Coach Dan Yoder said his team can be pretty good "when they get that little bit of swagger."
"They feed off each other," said Yoder, whose team limited its mistakes, turning the ball over just once late in the game. "Tonight, they came out ready to play and they kept the ball the entire night, which is good. It's something we haven't been able to do for a while."
La Cañada's defense, on the other hand, forced three Temple City (0-8, 0-3 in league) turnovers — two of which were turned into touchdowns.
Matt Jones, the Spartans' quarterback, was responsible for three of his team's touchdowns, passing for 155 yards and a score and running for 82 yards and two touchdowns.
"This game really shows what we can do when we come together and play as a team and not individuals," Jones said.
La Cañada (2-6, 1-2 in league) came out determined, taking its opening drive 70 yards in 10 plays. Jones capped off the drive with a four-yard touchdown run about six minutes into the game. The Spartans were back in the end zone less than three minutes later when Kevin Stoner ran for a two-yard score, pushing the lead to 14-0.
Stoner's run was set up by an interception from La Cañada's Mario Del Cueto at Temple City's 26-yard line. Another Rams turnover, a fumble forced by La Cañada's Nick McMenamin and recovered by Chase Levra, stopped another Temple City drive at La Cañada's 32.
Three plays later, Jones connected with Franklyn Cervenka on a 60-yard touchdown pass to push the lead to 21-0 less than a minute into the second quarter.
"I feel a lot more comfortable [since returning]," said Jones, who was playing in his second game back after missing three games with appendicitis. "I got the first game jitters out."
The Spartans went into halftime with a 24-7 lead following a Rams touchdown and a 21-yard field goal from Cervenka, who finished the game with 148 total yards (99 receiving and 49 rushing) and a touchdown, with 13 seconds left in the game.
Jones capped another La Cañada drive — which took six minutes off the clock to open the second half — with a one-yard sneak for a touchdown, pushing the lead to 30-7 after a missed extra point.
The Rams scored again with 1:32 left in the third quarter, but La Cañada answered back when Andy Paynter ran for a three-yard score with 6:06 left in the game.
Temple City scored the next two touchdowns, as Roger Tsung (131 rushing yards and a touchdown on 21 carries), ran into the end zone from one-yard out and Rams quarterback Mikal Quintanilla hit Dareece Spratt with a 15-yard touchdown pass to bring the game to 32-27 with 2:54 left in the game.
The Spartans recovered the ensuing onside kick and La Cañada's Kyle Herron broke a 15-yard touchdown run to finish the scoring at 44-27 with 1:49 remaining. Two plays later, Herron finished the night off with an interception, letting La Cañada take a knee and run out the clock.
"It feels so good to get the win," Cervenka said. "It's been such a disappointment this season, but if we finish the season 3-2 [in league] that's fine by me."
If the Spartans do win the rest of the way (against Blair and San Marino), they'll be in a good spot for a top-three finish in league and an automatic playoff berth.
"There is always hope and that will keep the team going and the spirits up," Jones said. "We aren't going to give up."