Spartans starters get the hook

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — When the apex of Friday evening’s La Cañada High football game involved members of the Spartans junior varsity team, needless to say, there weren’t many highlights.

And while those Spartans junior varsity players outscored their opponents by seven points, the varsity had no answer for visiting Eagle Rock, which was methodical in nearly all facets in defeating La Cañada, 25-7, in nonleague action.

“We’re not executing on varsity. Our JV came in and our JV was against their varsity defense and scored on their first drive,” Spartans first-year Coach James Sims said. “That JV team has only lost one game this year and our freshmen only lost one game this year. Our future is bright. I’m looking forward to future.”

The present, however, is murky for La Cañada (1-3), which has dropped three straight contests after a season-opening 17-7 win over Alhambra.

Sims’ level of dissatisfaction reached a boiling point at 6:57 in the fourth with his team down 25, when he yanked his starting lineup in favor of an almost entire junior varsity squad.

The move worked when backup quarterback Robbie Fuelling, who spelled starting signal-caller Matt Jones one series earlier, led the Spartans on a nine-play, 65-yard drive that culminated in a three-yard touchdown run from starting running back Andy Paynter, who carried 26 times for 101 yards, with 3:14 left in the game.

The touchdown, coupled with an extra point from senior Mario Del Cueto, capped La Cañada’s scoring.

While Del Cueto was credited with only one point, the receiver was the catalyst for the scoring surge, hauling in acrobatic catches of 22 and 29 yards, while losing a potential 40-yard reception on an offensive pass interference call.

“We got to the point where if we wanted to have a chance in the game, we needed to score points quick,” said Del Cueto, who finished with three catches for 57 yards. “We just max protected with one receiver wide and were throwing it deep.”

La Cañada picked up three first downs and 65 yards of offense on its final drive compared to seven first downs and 65 yards of offense on nine previous possessions.

“Eagle Rock played a good game, there are no excuses. They played a better game than us,” Sims said. “Our kids did not step up and play football, plain and simple, no excuses. Hats off to Eagle Rock.”

Despite the score, the Spartans defense posted a few highlights, including consecutive impressive stands to open the game.

The Eagles (2-3) kicked off the game by driving from their 37 to the Spartans’ four when they were faced with a fourth and one.

On the ensuing play, La Cañada’s Grant Owen stuffed Eagle Rock’s Marcus Flores (16 rushes for 108 yards) at the line of scrimmage to force a turnover on downs.

Eagle Rock responded by marching to the Spartans’ one on its next drive when it was again stood up on a fourth and one when Michael Greenberg bought down Flores shy of the goal line.

The setbacks did not deter Eagle Rock, though, as the Eagles scored 13 points in the second quarter on two touchdown passes from quarterback Joseph McGuan (13 for 17 for 124 yards and three touchdowns) to Peter Amaya of 11 and 63 yards.

Eagle Rock added a seven-yard scoring pass from McGuan to Russell McGuan in the third and a two-yard scoring rush from Joseph McGuan to cap its day.

Del Cueto did, however, take away two points from the Eagles on blocked extra points.

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