Southern California's High School Sports Blog

Football: Garcia Carries Load for Strathmore in State Finals (12/16/17)

Joseph Garcia of Strathmore. Photo/Mark Bausman.

By MICHAEL J. MARTINEZ

“If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.”

That’s the motto of the Strathmore’s football team. The Spartans took it upon themselves to grab a CIF State Division 6-AA title, knocking off host Orange, 31-29, in the CIF State Division 6-AA championship game on Saturday night at El Modena High of Orange.

The player who took on the most responsibility was Joseph Garcia, a 5-foot-10, 178-pound senior, who redefined the term “workhorse running back.”

Strathmore celebrates its 31-29 triumph over Orange in the CIF State Division 6-AA title game on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. Photo/Mark Bausman.

Garcia, who carried 44 times last week against St. Patrick-St. Vincent of Vallejo, rushed 41 times for 209 and scored 30 of the Spartans’ 31 total points (four rushing TDs and three 2-point runs).

It’s the first state championship for Strathmore, a school with 300 enrollment in a town of about 3,000. The Spartans also gained a measure of redemption after losing the Division 6-A state championship game last year on a late field goal by St. Patrick-St. Vincent.

“I’m at a loss (for words),” said Strathmore coach Jeromy Blackwell. “This football team has done everything we’ve asked them to do. We asked them to go 1-0 one play, one assignment, one situation at a time. And they did it 16 weeks in a row.”

Garcia and his offensive line did their most important work in the fourth quarter. Garcia’s 5-yard run and 2-point rush gave Strathmore a 31-22 lead with 5 minutes left. After Amando Rodriguez recovered an Orange onside kick, Garcia cranked out one more first down to secure victory.

“When the game’s on the line,” Blackwell said, “you put it in (Garcia’s) hands.”

After Strathmore opened the game with Garcia’s first TD, the lead swung four times after Orange began a trend of going for two and Strathmore followed suit. Strathmore made all three two-pointers, Orange made two of three.

Syrus Collins of Orange. Photo/Mark Bausman.

SCORE: Strathmore 31, Orange 29

RECORDS: Strathmore (16-0), Orange (13-3)

PIVOTAL MOMENT: Garcia picked up two fourth-downs in the fourth quarter, one to extend the clinching scoring drive and another to allow Strathmore to run out the clock. But Garcia’s best and longest of his 41 rushes came in the third quarter, with Strathmore backed to its 9-yard line in a 3rd-and-18. The Spartans called a draw just to get out of the hole but Garcia broke it from the middle out left for a 21 yard gain. The first down allowed Strathmore to switch field position, leading to a 47-yard drive for a 31-22 lead on their next possession. If not for Garcia’s effort, it would have been Orange with the short field and a chance to retake the lead.

KEY STAT(s): Garcia’s 41 carries are second most in the CIF State Championship Bowl Games. Miles Harrison of Clayton Valley Charter carried 50 times in the D-II State game in 2014. Another notable number, Strathmore starting quarterback Nick Salas didn’t complete a pass, going 0-for-5. Salas did catch a pass, however — a 23-yarder from Alonso Acevedo out of the Wildcat. The reception set up Garcia’s second TD and a 15-8 lead.

QUOTABLE I: “I still could go for another … a whole ‘nother game,” Garcia responded when asked if he had carries left in him. When told he had 40 carries for the second straight week, a disbelieving Garcia responded, “Again? Dang.”

QUOTABLE II: More of Blackwell’s thoughts on Garcia: “Two or three weeks in a row, with the game on the line, (Garcia’s) calling for it. He called the very last fourth-down play. He said, ‘I trust (tight end) Jaydon (Guire) to get his block (on the edge).’ He calls the play, pounds it for a first down. Whammo. They just won themselves a State championship.”

QUOTABLE III: Blackwell on the Strathmore community: “We got four sets of brothers on our football team and about 16 cousins. The better part of our football team comes from Plainview, California, population: 940. They’re spitting out kids like crazy … Thank God for them. Thanks, Strathmore for blessing us with all these kids, letting them play football for us. To Porterville Unified for backing us up. And I think we had a really remarkable crowd for a 4-and-1/2 hour trip. Strathmore, California. Population: 2,500. Can you imagine?”

NOTES: Strathmore is the first team to represent both the North and South in the CIF State Football Bowl Championships. … The Spartans have won five Central Section football titles, all since 1992. … Orange won its first Southern Section title since 1929. … Orange hurt its cause all night with 13 penalties for 123 yards. Strathmore was penalized 7 times for 84 yards. … Orange senior Jordan Schmidt led all receivers with six catches for 194 yards and touchdowns of 64 and 71. … Orange rushed 21 times for 120 yards, led by JoJo Martinez’ 15 carries for 69 yards. … Strathmore held the ball for 33 minutes and 23 seconds for the game — 17:48 in the first half and 15:35 in the second — making 5 of 12 on third downs and 3 of 5 on fourth downs was a big factor in that.

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