You want epic?
It’s senior defensive back Mario Diaz, catching one pass for a touchdown and another for a decisive interception. It’s rookie quarterback Randon Gomez, cutting through a stalwart defense. It’s senior defensive lineman Noah Hunter, hugging the winner’s prize as teammates mobbed him after the game
It’s Lindsay High football, taking The Bell back by force Friday night with a 10-7 victory over visiting Strathmore in the 99th edition of this epic East Sequoia League rivalry.
“It feels great,” Diaz said. “Word can’t even describe it.”
Perhaps not, but let’s give it a try.
By the slightest of margins, Lindsay ended Strathmore’s five-game winning streak in the Bell Game. The Cardinals go into the Division IV playoffs with a 7-3 record, their most wins since 2013.
Above all, they kept the Spartans (9-1) – the defending Central Section champions and back-to-back state finalists – from a third undefeated regular season in four years. Strathmore still won a share of the league title, but that wasn’t much consolation in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s loss.
“This is amazing,” Gomez said. “You have no idea.”
Lindsay managed 71 yards on 15 plays in the first half, yet went into halftime tied 0-0 because its defense rendered Strathmore’s running game much ado about nothing substantial.
The Spartans opened the game with a 13-play, 70-yard, 6 minute, 45 second drive that died at the Cardinals 1-yard line. Their next 13-yard drive died at the Cardinals 17. Their third drive met its demise at the Cardinals 9.
Thirty-nine plays, 190 yards, 16:19 of game clock, nothing to show for it.
“You could tell they were getting frustrated,” said Hunter, who powered a Lindsay front that kept 1,000-yard back Carlos Moreno to 67 yards on 12 carries. “We were getting frustrated, too, when we weren’t moving the ball like I know we can.”
Lindsay’s frustration ended in the second half.
Lindsay opened with 9-play, 69-yard touchdown march, culminating in a 5-yard touchdown pass from Gomez to Diaz. Diaz lined up on the left sideline, gave an inside head fake, then rolled out into the end zone for a go-ahead haul.
“I knew that play was going to work,” Diaz said.
One possession later, it was Lindsay senior Daniel Trujillo asserting himself as an unstoppable force. He kick started the drive with a 21-yard power run, then added three runs for 16 yards to set up Emiliano Corona’s 38-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
Trujillo finished with 13 carries for 91 yards. All else fell on the defense’s shoulders to make the lead stick.
Strathmore senior Christian Onsurez punched in a 2-yard touchdown run with 8:20 left in the game, punctuating a drive where backup quarterback Cristian Rodriguez took over for injured starter Trace Pugh and found Andre Bravo for a 28-yard pass to the Cardinals 2.
The Spartans got the ball right back, and quickly moved to the Cardinals 39. Re-enter Diaz, who intercepted a shot fired over the middle at the Cardinals 34.
“I knew the quarterback was getting pressure and wanted to throw it,” Diaz said. “It just gave me a chance to go up and make a play.”
Strathmore had one last chance, and got near midfield, only for Lindsay to force four consecutive incomplete passes – the last tipped away by Richard Diaz.
Gomez stood on the field after the game ended, hugging the game ball and staring at the scoreboard.
“We brought the ball back,” he said. “Finally.”