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Styles leads Spartans in Playoff win

Kennedy High School showed a lot of improvement against Strathmore last Friday, scoring 14 more points than their previous meeting on Aug. 31. Unfortunately for the Thunderbirds, Strathmore was much improved as well.

Since beating the Thunderbirds 36-14 back in August, the Spartans had an up and down season going 5-4 heading into last Friday night’s home game in the first round of the Division VI Playoffs. But in their rematch against Kennedy, the Spartans played well on both sides of the ball on their way to a 49-28 victory.

Strathmore started the game with Styles as the talented senior tailback took the ball 49 yards for a touchdown.

“We’ve been working on the stiff arm, but other than that the rest is all God-given talent,” Strathmore Head Coach Jerome Blackwell said. “We played very well in the first quarter.”

The Spartans defense didn’t budge against the Kennedy running attack, so the Thunderbirds turned to the air. Quarterback Rolando Arrona got off to a shaky start. Rico Madrigal picked off one of his passes in the first quarter. The turnover gave the Spartans a short field and a quick drive was capped by a 27 yard touchdown run by David Medina.

On the ensuing kickoff, Kennedy’s Baggio Jaurgui would have returned the ball for a touchdown if not for a Cody Styles tackle at the Spartans 35 yard line. On a 4 and 5 from the 13 yard line, the Thunderbirds killed their only chance to get in the game after turning over the ball on a fumbled snap. Styles got his team across midfield before quarterback Nick Gomez fumbled the ball back to Kennedy.

Kennedy’s Arrona would settle down and complete several long passes in the second quarter, including an 18 yard touchdown pass to Edwin Villa with 54 seconds left in the second quarter for a halftime score of 21-7. That’s the closest the Thunderbirds would get to tie the game.

Whether it was running a quarterback keeper, tossing the option or throwing deep downfield, Arrona was the only offense for the Thunderbirds. In the third quarter, Arrona was able to connect with Baggio Jauragui on an 87 yard touchdown bomb. But he would follow it up with another interception after being picked off by Santiago Cardenas in the third. In all, the Spartans intercepted Arrona six times and scored 28 points off turnovers.

“They turned over the ball six times and still scored 28 points,” Blackwell said. “This is a team that is just waiting to break out.”

Arrona’s option pitch to Rolando Arrona resulted in a 27 yard touchdown run to cut the lead 35-21 with 2:51 left in the third quarter. But then Styles returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards to extend the Spartans lead back to 21 points.

“We were pretty sloppy in the second half but the guys seemed to come out better in the third quarter,” Blackwell said.

Styles scored again on a 27 yard run touchdown run and a 4 yard touchdown in the third quarter. He then added a 62 yard touchdown with 11:42 left in the game before Blackwell let the junior varsity players take the field. Styles finished the game with 314 yards, 84 yards in kickoff returns, 4 tackles and 6 touchdowns. Arrona was able to muster one more score for his squad on a 27 yard touchdown pass with 6:12 left in the game to make the final score 49-28.

Blackwell said this Friday’s second round matchup against the Aztecs in Farmersville will be a chess match between Farmersville wide receiver/linebacker Cody Hall and Strathmore defensive back/running back Cody Styles.”

“It’s going to be Cody Styles versus Cody Hall,” Blackwell said. “Cody Hall is a dangerous wide receiver so we will put our best defender on him.”

This Friday’s game at Garry Meek Stadium could decide the eventual Division VI Valley Champion.

“It seems like the Valley Championship always has either Farmersville or Strathmore in it,” Blackwell said. “I think Avenal might upset Mendota, which means the winner of our game next week may host Valley Title game.”

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