By Matt Schuler
(San Dimas)-In a battle of winless teams, El Monte put up just enough points to out duel Gladstone 32-24 Thursday night at San Dimas High School.
With only a one-possession lead defensive back Edgar Urena picked off Andres Uribe’s pass at the Lions’ 20-yard line, derailing a big momentum drive and potential tying touchdown for the Gladiators with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
“It feels great,” said El Monte Coach Joel Sanchez after notching his first win of the season. “We made a big play when we needed to when we jumped in front of that pick.”
Stealing the show for the Lions on offense was running back Michael Jimenez, who rushed for 178 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns.
Quarterback Manuel Santa Cruz, finished with over 100 yards through the air on a 9 of 19 passing night, but after an 0-2 start to the season the ball just seemed to bounce the Lions way this game around.
“All year we haven’t been getting those breaks,” said Sanchez. “If the kids keep playing hard hopefully well get those breaks.”
On third and long Santa Cruz connected with Steven Cabrera, who was hit and fumbled the ball off the turf right into the hands of fellow receiver Memo Silva, who then scooped the fumble in full stride and took it 25 yards to the house.
Early in the third the Lions Frank Lopez picked up key blocks, turned the corner, and went 75-yards for a touchdown on a punt return.
The following possession the Lions defense forced a bad pass to avoid a safety, which turned out worse when the pass fell into the hands of linebacker Samuel Quinones. He then stepped into the end zone for a touchdown and El Monte had its biggest lead of the game, 26-3 with 5:16 remaining in the third quarter.
That’s when the Lion’s took their foot off the pedal and the Gladiators battled their way back to an 8-point deficit.
Uribe was a beast for the Gladiators, accumulating over 350 yards of total offense and accounting for three scores. Uribe completed 50% of his pass attempts, finishing with 247 yards passing and two scores.
The G-Stone QB also had a 100-yard rushing performance on 15 attempts, including a 60-yard touchdown sprint that tightened the score to 32-24 with 2:16 left in the fourth.
But that’s as close as Gladstone would get as the Lions held on.