Spartans overcome slow start against Blair

LA CAÑADA — For the second week in a row, the Blair High football team had its opponent on its heels early. But for the second week in a row, the Vikings saw their opponent run away with the game late.

La Cañada had a one-score advantage heading into halftime, but wore Blair down as the game went on, walking away with a 28-0 Rio Hondo League win in the Spartans' homecoming.

The game got away from the Vikings (1-8, 0-4 in league) in the second half after their 16-man roster was trimmed to 13 with two injuries and an ejection. The lack of players washed away Blair's strong performance early on, as the Vikings were clicking on offense and defense.

"We saw some things on film we could expose, especially with our speed, but we knew we had to hit it early," Blair Coach Gary Parks said.

The Vikings threatened to score first, taking their opening drive 49 yards down field on 10 plays to La Cañada's 31-yard line. That's where the drive ended, though, as Blair turned the ball over on downs.

"If we didn't hit it early, we knew they were going to make some adjustments and we knew that we were going to be worn down," Parks said.

The Spartans (3-6, 2-2) finally got moving on their third drive — after being held to 13 yards on their first two drives — taking the ball 65 yards into the end zone on nine plays. Franklyn Cervenka capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run, putting La Cañada up, 7-0, with 3:23 left in the first half.

La Cañada didn't take advantage of Blair being short-handed, as the Vikings lost Andy Williams and Bryce Luna to what appeared to be concussion-like symptoms and Logan McClain to an ejection in the first half.

"We played to their level this game," said La Cañada senior linebacker and fullback Kyle Herron. "We have absolutely no right to do that."

The slow start led to a pep talk from La Cañada Coach Dan Yoder at the half.

"We asked them at halftime, 'How do you want to remember this?' and they responded," Yoder said. "I thought it was a different second-half team."

The Spartans pounced on the depleted Vikings in the third quarter, scoring on the fourth play of the second half. Kevin Stoner ran for a 17-yard touchdown, putting the Spartans up, 14-0, with 10:26 left.

Andy Paynter added a nine-yard rushing touchdown for La Cañada four minutes later after Blair turned the ball over on downs at its own 28. Cervenka set up the touchdown run with a 19-yard scamper of his own. He finished with 96 rushing yards on eight carries.

"We had really good blocks, they really sealed the outside," Cervenka said. "Paynter and Stoner played great, too."

Blair requested a running clock after the touchdown. Cervenka ran for a 15-yard touchdown run with 10:29 to go in the game, capping the scoring.

Blair quarterback Shedrick Walker led his team on offense, rushing for 61 yards on 16 carries and completing one of three passes for 16 yards.

La Cañada's victory sets up a game with plenty of playoff implications in the Rio Hondo League when the Spartans travel to San Marino (6-3, 3-1) Thursday. A Spartans' win and a Monrovia victory over South Pasadena (6-3, 3-1) would set up a three-way tie for second place in league.

"I am just taking it a game at a time," Herron said. "I want to go into next week, play our hearts out and beat [San Marino] in my last game. Whatever happens [with playoffs] is fine with me."

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