By Alex A. Gonzalez
Pasadena — From a city that has less than 3,000 people, the Strathmore Spartans took the three-hour bus ride down to Jackie Robinson Stadium at Pasadena City College Saturday afternoon to play the Bell Gardens Lancers and will travel back home as CIF State Football Division 7-A champions after a dominating 42-7 win over the Lancers.
Sophomore running back Gerardo Ruiz led Strathmore with 224 yards on 17 carries and five touchdowns. As a team, the offense rushed for 406 yards total.
“It feels pretty good, you know,” said Ruiz after the game. “We worked all summer for this in 110-degree weather every day. It really shows the work that we do and what we put in.”
The ground game was the critical focus for the Spartans once they took the field for their first series of the game. The entire drive was a mixture of run plays split between Ruiz and Ramon Rodriguez, who combined for 68 yards on the drive that Ruiz capped from nine yards out.
Then, after Daniel Tovar fumbled the ball away on Bell Gardens’ first offensive play, Ruiz reached pay dirt again to put his team up 14-0 with 5:56 remaining in the first quarter.
Bell Gardens was able to come up with a touchdown drive of their own on the ensuing possession. Jacob Reyes’ completion to Rios Bryant for 41 yards flipped field possession for the offense as they ended the drive when Tover crossed the end zone for the score.
The one-possession score didn’t last long, as Strathmore only needed three plays to back up two scores. The running back duo of Ruiz and Rodriguez shredded the Lancer defense for 15 and 25 yards—the third play of the drive ended with Ruiz scoring his third rushing score of the first quarter.
BG then went on a 17-play drive that consumed more than ten minutes of game clock and 58 yards. However, on fourth and 9, Reyes’ pass to the flat was incomplete, and the score remained 21-7 with 7:12 left in the first half.
The Spartans came up short on their next possession and took their 21-7 lead into halftime.
With possession of the ball going to Bell Gardens to start the second half, the offense compiled a 16-play drive that included two fourth-down conversions. But on their third fourth down play from the 6-yard line, Reyes’ pass again fell incomplete, and the offense was left with no points.
Once Strathmore took possession of the ball, they scored on all three possessions in the second half.
Bryson Bias scored his first touchdown of the afternoon when he optioned to keep the ball, giving his team a 28-7 lead late in the third quarter. Then Ruiz scored the game’s final two touchdowns with carries of 36 and 5 yards that reached the end zone.
“I was running like a hothead. I did not want to go down,” said Ruiz when talking about his performance. “I did not want to fall short or even be stopped. I wanted to run my heart out.”
A running clock was instituted once the fourth quarter started.
The state championship win for the Spartans is their first since 2017.
Bell Gardens Starting Offensive Line
LT: 71 Brandon Arredondo
LG: 55 Javier Molina
C: 65 David Villa
RG: 53 Joshua Calderon
RT: 66 Daniel Lopez
Strathmore Starting Offensive Line
LT: 53 Joseph Kirk
LG: 71 Andrew Martin
C: 60 Braden Martin
RG: 50 Pedro Corona
RT: 74 Julian Ruiz