In recent years, the Jurupa Hills football team had performed well in the San Andreas League, but could never quite reach the very top of the standings. Until now.
The Spartans rose to the occasion on Nov. 1, acquiring a share of the league championship by bringing down Eisenhower, 41-21, in the climactic regular season finale.
Jurupa Hills ended up in a three-way tie for first place with Ike and San Gorgonio, all with 4-1 records.
"We feel like this was a catapult," said coach Citos Marinez. "We had to get over a hump and beat a team that is a champion (Ike won the CIF title last year). So we feel like we're entering into that territory, and we plan to be there for a long time."
The Spartans, who raised their record to 9-1 overall, will be playing at home against Coachella Valley (7-3) in the first round of the CIF Division 12 playoffs on Friday, Nov. 8.
Marinez said the key to the win over Ike was the Spartans' ability to jump ahead 14-0 and never let the opponents catch up. In contrast, in their only loss this season, the Spartans fell way behind San Gorgonio on Oct. 18 and were unable to pull off a great comeback.
"This game, we started fast and were able to get in front," Marinez said. "They (the Eagles) have great players, but our defense did a good job of not letting them have big plays."
The Spartans rarely passed the ball, but they converted two touchdown passes for a 21-7 halftime lead.
Quarterback Eric Marinez fired a 23-yard pass to William English for the first touchdown, and in the second period, Marinez pitched the football to Davieon Gambo, who fooled the Eagles by throwing a 49-yard pass to Trayton Cooper.
With Ike focused on trying to stop explosive receivers Gambo and Cooper, the Spartans turned to freshman Kamron Randell-Taylor, who rushed for 78 yards on 11 carries in the game and scored a TD. He also had a 19-yard reception.
The Spartans were ahead 34-21 in the fourth quarter when Cooper dashed 57 yards down the sideline for a clinching touchdown. Cooper, following excellent offensive line blocking, finished with 157 yards in 7 carries and 2 scores.
Eric Marinez completed 3 of 3 passes for 54 yards in the game, and he also rushed 6 times for 22 yards.
Gambo had 3 carries for 21 yards, caught a 12-yard pass, and had 2 kickoff returns for 78 yards. English rushed 3 times for 23 yards. Jose Diaz kicked 5 extra points.