Blowout score, check.
Running clock, double check.
More yards passing than rushing … wait, what?
“This year, there’s going to be a lot more throwing the ball,” Strathmore High quarterback Trace Pugh said after Fridays 42-6 victory over Boron in the 2019 season opener.
You heard him. Spartans football, which has reached three consecutive state championship games by running the ball until their feet fall off, tried something over the top for its latest opening act.
They threw the ball. A lot, as far as Strathmore standards go. Nothing may have changed on the scoreboard – they throttled the Bobcats in the 2018 opener as well – but everything changed in how they handed out this licking.
Pugh threw for a career-high 166 yards, completing 10 of 12 passes and three touchdowns. For context, consider his body of work last season: the then-junior completed 31 of 68 passes for 563 yards and eight touchdowns in 10 games.
Put another way, he’s a third of the way to those numbers after just one game this senior year.
“We knew we were going to have to open it up a little bit and change the tempo,” Spartans coach Jeromy Blackwell said. “Trace did a good job, he’s a little bit of a gunslinger.”
Pugh was everything the Spartans needed to get things moving.
Strathmore was scoreless through the first 30 minutes of the game. Worse yet, the Spartans trailed the Bobcats 6-0 with 3:29 left in the first half. To that point, a rushing offense that averaged 263.3 yards per game last season had gained just 22 yards in the first half.
That’s when Blackwell stopped asking Pugh to hand the ball off to a running back. That’s when Pugh got his chance to do what quarterbacks were created to do.
Eight plays, all throws, 76 yards, tied game.
His 31-yard touchdown throw to Lee Navarro was a thing of beauty. Navarro made a short move to the left sideline off the scrimmage line, then swam down the field to haul in a perfectly timed lob at the 20. The senior receiver danced out of an ankle grab by the defender and ran it in to tie the game 6-6 with 57 seconds left in the second quarter.
Open, flood gates.
Cutter Zeller turned a 10-yard checkdown pass into a 52-yard rumble outside the hashes in the third quarter. Andre Bravo ran down his own over-the-shoulder timing pass on the sideline for a 28-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Eventually, the run game got going enough to break the 100-yard mark, settling at 122 with 5-yard touchdown runs by Carlos Moreno and Christian Onsurez. Manuel Andrade pitched in a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown on the fifth play of the third quarter.
“The running game wasn’t working at first, so I knew we had to throw it,” Pugh said. “That’s my game. Get the ball to my playmakers and let them make plays.”
It’s different, that’s for sure. And it just might work as Strathmore makes the bump up to Division V, where it often takes more than a one-sided offense to do the trick.
“We were searching for that run game, that’s our bread and butter,” Blackwell said. “It’s going to come. We’re going to tighten up the screws on it. It’ll be fine tuned before it’s over.”
The Spartans will aim for their school-record 16th consecutive non-league regular season victory Friday when they host Parlier.
STRATHMORE 42, BORON 6
Boron (1-1) 0 6 0 0 -- 6
Strathmore (1-0) 0 6 29 7 -- 42
B: Talon Pierce 3 run (kick failed)
S: Lee Navarro 31 pass from Trace Pugh (kick failed)
S: Manuel Andrade 42 interception return (Carlos Moreno kick)
S: Moreno 5 run (Moreno kick)
S: Cutter Zeller 52 pass from Pugh (Andre Bravo pass)
S: Christian Onsurez 5 run (Moreno kick)
S: Bravo 28 pass from Pugh (Moreno kick)
PASSING: S: Pugh 10-12-0-166.
RUSHING: Zeller 11-71, Onsurez 4-29, Pugh 2-14, Miguel Carranza 3-3, Christian Rodriguez 3-5.
RECEIVING: Bravo 4-61, Zeller 1-52, Navarro 3-41, Carranza 2-12.