K.C. Brandsted rushed for 91 yards and caught a 54-yard touchdown pass and Cayden McLaughlin booted a pair of field goals Friday night to lead the Sonora Wildcats to a 28-0 gridiron shutout of their host the Lathrop Spartans.
It was the third straight victory for Sonora, second by shutout, as the Wildcats make a push for postseason after losing its first five games.
While a win is a win in the Valley Oak League, it didn’t thrill Wildcat head coach Bryan Craig.
“Lathrop played really hard, but there were some things we just didn’t do well,” Craig said. “Our defense played outstanding again posting another shutout, but we just weren’t as good as we were hoping to be.”
The Spartans didn’t allow the Wildcats to run wild after Sonora had tallied 877 yards in their last two games. The Wildcats had just 214 and that helped lead to a scoreless first quarter.
Sonora got on the board in the second quarter when quarterback Zach Atwood scored on a 6-yard run to make it 7-0.
The Wildcats threatened again later in the quarter when Atwood connected with receiver Dalton Miale for a 38-yard gain to set Sonora inside the Lathrop 10.
But the Spartans held the Cats out of the end zone and McLaughlin trotted on and booted a 23-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
Sonora moved into scoring position again late in the first half and McLaughlin lined up for a 49-yard attempt with 10 seconds left.
“I was trying not to panic because it was so far away,” McLaughlin said.
The kick finished just short of the crossbar but a running-into-the-kicker penalty gave him another chance. This time, from 45 yards, he connected to send Sonora into halftime with a 13-0 lead.
“Everything about that second kick went perfect,” McLaughlin said. “I got a second chance and there was no way I was gonna miss it. I hit it solid.”
“He just nailed it,” Craig said. “That gave us momentum heading into halftime. It must’ve adrenalized him because all his second-half kickoffs went into the end zone for touchbacks.”
With the way the Sonora defense was playing, Brandsted’s third quarter 54-yard touchdown catch and run pretty much sealed Lathrop’s fate.
The fullback made his grab in the flat and did the rest himself.
“We ran the boot pass and I was wide open and Zach dropped the ball to me,” Brandsted said. “I just didn’t want to drop that ball. I saw one or two guys there and thought I would get tackled after 10 or 15 yards. But I blew up their cornerback and was able to break through.”
“They (Spartans) had the opportunity to bring him down, but the defenders bounced off him like he was rubber,” Craig said. “He broke those tackles and went right down the sideline. He gets us so many tough yards.”
Billy Kiriluk put the finishing touches on Sonora’s victory, scoring the Wildcats final touchdown in the third quarter on a 7-yard burst.
While the Sonora rushing attack was contained somewhat, Atwood completed 4 of 7 passes for a career-high 122 yards.
“Lathrop loaded the box and we didn’t block the dive real well early,” Craig said. “Zach threw the ball pretty good.”
Sonora’s defense owns two shutouts in its last three games and has outscored its opponents 132-16.
“Our corners Will (Collamer) and Carter (Denton) did a great job sticking to their receivers and covered those guys real well all night,” Craig said. “Carter even came up with an interception.
“Coach (Jed) Malone has done a great job with the defense, but our biggest test is yet to come. We’ve been stopping the run, but we’re gonna find out just how good we are on Fridaynight.”
The Wildcats host Kimball on Friday at Dunlavy Field and the Jaguars are fresh off a 35-14 thumping of Oakdale in Tracy.
“It surprised me they beat Oakdale that bad, but they are athletic and fast and a good team,” Craig said.
“Kimball is gonna be tougher, but we’ve got this winning streak going and we’re all pumped up,” Brandsted said. “We want to make the playoffs if we can and we need to win out to get there.”