Those bad memories and heartbreak after losing to St. Patrick-St. Vincent-Vallejo last season are now a memory for the Strathmore High football team.
The Spartans are headed back to the Division 6-AA final.
Nick Salas’ 24-yard touchdown pass to Andres Lara helped Strathmore to a 49-35 victory over the visiting Bruins on Friday night, avenging last year’s loss to the same team in the state championship game.
St. Patrick-St. Vincent scored in the last second last year to beat the host Spartans 29-28.
This time around they’ll be on the road playing Orange, which prevented an all-Valley championship game by stopping Caruthers 46-43 in overtime. Orange will host the final on its home field at El Modena High on Dec. 16 at 6 p.m.
It continues a difficult run for Strathmore, which had to rally to win in double-overtime in a play-in game last week at Hilmar and then drew the rematch with SP-SV.
The Spartans trailed 28-21 Friday night heading into the fourth quarter. Coach Jeromy Blackwell said penalties and turnovers plagued his team early, but they showed grit on a 21-play (including four fourth-down conversions), 10-minute drive in the second quarter to tie it 14-14 at halftime.
After Strathmore fell behind 28-21, senior running back Joseph Garcia took over. He scored on a 20-yard run to tie the game at 28-28 and did it again when he scored on an 11-yard run to even the score at 35-35.
Garcia, who finished with 44 carries for 270 yards and five touchdowns, capped the scoring on a 1-yard run with 1:39 remaining.
“Joseph pounded the ball in the second half behind our offensive line,” Blackwell said. “He has amazing heart and determination. The kids trust Joseph, but they all trust each other, so they play with unconscious competence and are relentless.”