In an early back-and-forth battle, the Pebble Hills Spartans emerged on top and scored 20 unanswered points late in the third quarter to beat out the Andress Eagles 34-13 on Thursday evening.
The game featured just about every turnover one could think of: interceptions, fumbles and even two muffed punts. Yet, Pebble Hills was able to erase their mistakes and capitalize on the Eagles’ mishaps to win in what head coach Mark Torres called a “humble” victory.
“It’s great to have a win against a very good opponent, but we have to be humble because it was ugly and it could’ve gone the other way really quick,” he said following the game. “We didn’t play particularly well, we played kind of sloppy, but Andress has a lot to do with that. They’re an outstanding team, well coached and we can’t make these mistakes when we go into 6A.”
From the get-go, both teams exchanged a pair of three-and-outs, until Andress quarterback Dominique Smith danced past two tacklers and threw a 50-yard bomb to his brother, Darian Smith. This would set up an easy Jalen Joseph 3-yard rushing touchdown to put the Eagles on top 7-0.
After a wild 70-yard interception by linebacker Jonas Christmas of Pebble Hills, quarterback Orlando Puig took advantage of the turnover and threw a crisp, 22-yard touchdown pass to tie the game early.
Despite letting go a fumble on an earlier drive, Spartans running back Caleb Gerber was able to help punch in a touchdown for the team on the ground before the half, leading 14-7.
Gerber finished the half with 166 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Coming out of the half, it looked as if Andress was going to get a break after they recovered a muffed punt inside the Spartans territory. Smith was able to put together a quick 44-yard drive that resulted in a 13-yard rushing touchdown by Smith.
Momentum shifted even more when Eagles’ defender Tre Maestas took the defense’s second interception of the half off Puig.
However, it was the Spartans’ defense that truly came in clutch against Andress. They forced a punt, which resulted in an 88-yard touchdown drive that lifted Pebble Hills 21-13 late third quarter.
The following drive, linebacker Anthony Sapien scooped up a fumble for a touchdown, lifting the Spartans 28-13.
The Eagles had fallen apart.
“We did get ahead of them, but then we got the fumble recovery for a touchdown,” Torres said. “That was absolutely the turning point.”
The special teams called an unexpected pooch kick to the right side, which the Spartans ended up recovering and regaining possession immediately. While it was a lucky break, Torres mentioned how the surprising play did not happen by design.
“That’s how bad we are on special teams,” he said. “I called deep right, but it was a pooch right. And I’m the one who coaches special teams so I’ve got to do a better job.”
To add to the defiant lead, Andress was completely stumped on offense by the well-prepared Pebble Hills defense.
“They (the defense) was outstanding,” Torres said. “We focused on them not getting the big play or the second play. Their first score of the game we had their quarterback sacked—who was phenomenal, I’m a big fan of his. We focused big time on limiting the big plays, keeping them in front of us and not allowing the second play.”
Then came another Puig touchdown to Haredt Gonzalez, their third connection for a touchdown on the night. It capped the game off in the fourth quarter, as the Spartans finished on top 34-13.
While Torres didn’t believe the win was his best, Puig thought it was by far the program’s greatest win in its three-year existence.
“Most definitely it was (the best win),” he said with a smile. “It was ugly, but we got the win.”
Instead of looking ahead to their 6A schedule, when they take on Franklin on Sept. 29, Torres is focused on improving his team now and facing Chapin (1-0) next Friday.
“We’re not there. We’re not even close to Franklin,” he said. “We have Chapin, who beat us 37-7 on this field last year, and we get them next Friday night. We’ve got to focus on them. Chapin’s outstanding, I got to see them play last week and we’ll get to see them tomorrow when they play Eastlake.”
For now, though, he will let the win over Andress settle as a noble one for his squad.
“It was hard earned with a lot of adversity. You can’t achieve anything great without adversity or setbacks,” Torres said. “For us to hobble the way we did in the first half and finish the way we did, that was important. We’re happy the way we finished.”
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