First published in the Sept. 2 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
The fans were back, the cheerleaders were cheering and the band had returned to Spartan Stadium for La Cañada High School’s football season opener hosting Glendale. It was time for fall football, and La Cañada was ready to go.
The Spartans’ offense had one of the most prolific nights in the school’s 59-year history as they opened the Coach Dave Avramovich era with a resounding 58-21 non-league victory over the visiting Nitros last Thursday night.
The scoring explosion was the best in 41 years and the school’s second-highest ever, ranking just behind Coach Marty McWhinney’s Spartans in their 59-13 victory over Duarte on Oct. 31, 1980.
“The kids were excited to play,” said Avramovich, La Cañada’s first-year head coach who previously served as the team’s defensive coordinator. “They came out and played hard and did everything we asked them to. You could see in that first half all our hard work.”
La Cañada (1-0 record) scored the first eight times it had the ball, including all seven of their possessions in the first half, en route to a 51-6 lead at intermission.
Corey Cheung was the catalyst for the Spartans, playing on offense, defensively at linebacker, and on special teams.
“Obviously [Cheung] is a real explosive athlete and just understands the game really well,” Avramovich said.
The junior accounted for 30 of his team’s points, including 18 points in the first quarter, which ended with the Spartans leading, 31-0. Cheung finished with a team-high 62 yards rushing on nine carries with two touchdowns. He also had a game-high 140 yards receiving on four catches with two touchdowns. Additionally, Cheung ran for a two-point conversion after the Spartans’ first three touchdowns of the opening period.
The Spartans took the opening kickoff and drove 56 yards in four plays to start the scoring. The first play on offense of the season saw Cheung scamper for 21 yards. He then caught a 24-yard pass from quarterback Macky Plocher before finishing the drive with a touchdown run of 11 yards with 11:00 left in the first.
Plocher, a sophomore making his first start, finished nine of 14 for 286 yards and four touchdowns. Brandon Shepherd caught one pass for 22 yards and had one rush for 42 yards.
“In the beginning, I was pretty freaking nervous, but after the first snap I was fine,” Plocher said.
The Nitros (0-2 record), who opened their season last week with a loss on the road to Gabrielino High in San Gabriel, were held without a first down and forced a punt on their first possession.
Two plays later, Plocher connected with Cheung on a short pass that he turned into a 31-yard score.
Spartan defender Jamie Warner then recovered a fumble after Shepherd stripped the ball away from the Glendale running back. On the next snap, Plocher threw a short pass to Caleb Carruthers, which turned into a 49-yard gain. The following play saw Mateo Gallegos bang the ball into the end zone from three yards out.
Carruthers finished with 109 yards on two catches, including a 60-yard touchdown up the middle in the third quarter.
Glendale was then forced to punt again. Cole Stratton grabbed the ball after a bounce, returning it 59 yards for a score with 1:20 left in the first quarter. Senior kicker Shaina Clorfeine followed by kicking the PAT and the score was 31-0 going into the second quarter. She would end up converting all four of her PAT attempts in the contest.
Glendale then put together an extended drive to get on the board early in the second. Dennis Perez scored from seven yards out on a bruising run for six points.
La Cañada answered, scoring the final 20 points of the half. Cheung had an 80-yard touchdown catch, Stratton then made a 10-yard touchdown catch and Cheung finished it off with a four-yard rushing touchdown as time expired in the second quarter. Stratton finished with two catches for 23 yards.
Warner led the Spartans in tackles with nine and Carruthers had eight. Stratton and Shepherd had six apiece. Cheung had five stops, while Anthony Venneri and Diego Reyes each had four. Mateo Gallegos and Diego Reyes had three tackles apiece, Sean Hartman two and Jake Adkins, Maximo Mora and Paulos Cucullu each had one.
The second half was played with a running clock, as many Spartan reserves saw quality playing time.
“I’m really proud of the young guys for getting into a varsity game,” Avramovich said.