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Sports Recap: Here’s what happened in Citrus Heights football (Oct. 24-25)

San Juan High School Spartans lining up with Linden ready for the battle at the line of scrimmage. // Marcus D. Smith

By Marcus D. Smith
Mesa Verde Mavericks faced the Woodland Wolves in a Senior Night home game on Oct. 24, while the San Juan Spartans played a game against the Linden Lions the following night.

San Juan High School entered their game against Linden with a depleted roster that recently saw its head count cut in half. Despite the deficiency of players, the Spartans still managed to make adjustments on the fly and put forth the best product on the field possible.

“Injuries and grades took a big hit so just, all week trying guys at new positions,” said Spartans head coach, Andy Villegas of the adjustments his team now faces.

The Spartans were left short-handed early in the first quarter battling injuries to their offensive and defensive linemen as senior and team captain, Charlie Surratt re-aggravated his knee and sophomore, James Hard injured his collarbone and needed an evaluation. Neither of them returned to the game.

A change that came as surprise to many was the switch at the quarterback position. Senior, Wyatt Winalski, started the game at quarterback, his usual position, but coach Villegas tried him out at tight end to shake the offense up, and even had him play a few snaps on defense.

“It’s just a matter of who’s going to step up and be the man, you know? I had to step up huge because I went from straight to quarterback and then ended up playing [defensive] end because of the lack of players,” said Winalski. “I mean it’s not something we all want to do but if the teams needs it, you got to step up and be the guy.”

Villegas added versatility to the quarterback position by placing Winalski with junior, Matt Colter, who sees time all around the field at running back, wide receiver, defensive back, and as a return specialist.

Colter got off to a cold start in his first game as quarterback, throwing two interceptions. However, he was eventually able to settle in comfortably in his role under center as he later ran 60 yards for a touchdown.

“I can be quarterback or wide receiver. I just want to do anything to help out my team and make us better,” said Colter. “I’m going to try and change the culture next year by putting all my heart into it and being a better leader and I can.”

The San Juan Spartans would ultimately lose this game against the Linden Lions. The only touchdowns coming from a kick returned for a touchdown by senior, Romeo Bryant, with 4:30 remaining in the contest and Colter’s quarterback run to end the game with the final score, 59-13.

This game would push their losing streak to four, as they look to end the season next week against Golden Sierra High School. The Grizzlies come into this game with an undefeated record, 4-0, including their last victory coming against Rio Vista, 51-22.

The Spartans will host Golden Sierra for their final home game at McArthur Field on the campus of San Juan High School. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m.

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Mavericks vs. Woodland
It was senior night for the Mesa Verde Mavericks and so family, friends, and fans were out to celebrate and support the hard work, consistency, and determination of the Senior 2020 Class.

Players were honored at halftime for their dedication put forth into the Mesa Verde football program throughout the years and setting an example for the next class of players.

“I appreciate the passion I see with everyone of you guys tonight. I appreciate the heart and the desire, and the love of the game of football,” said head coach Bryan Golder in an emotional post-game speech to his team. “To you seniors, for your senior night, thank you. Thank you for allowing me to coach you guys this year. I had a great time with you guys for senior night here at your home stadium.”

Mesa Verde showcased just how dangerous a threat they can be for 24 out of 48 minutes, as they were able to outscore the Woodland Wolves, 15-7, in the second half of their Thursday night game.

However, for the majority of the game they encountered a demoralizing Woodland defense that was able to play a huge role in the, 34-0, halftime deficit against the Mavericks.

“It’s a tale of two halves for us, [in the] first half we faced some adversity. We started having division, we started to have some separation and arguing amongst one another… when adversity faces us men, we’re not going to run from it,” said head coach Bryan Golder. “In the second half you guys did a much better job of becoming men about it and not hanging your heads and not quitting, not retreating and crying about it.”

Mesa Verde had five giveaways in the first half, including two fumbles lost and an interception that were all returned for touchdowns.

The Mavericks defense only allowed 20 points on Thursday, while the offense gave up 21 points in turnovers, which turned out to be the major difference in the game.

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“I don’t know what was going on in the first half, I was kind of just in my own head the whole time,” said senior quarterback, Jaden Burger, “but once I got to the second half, I just started playing our game.

Despite this loss, Mesa Verde still has a chance to contend for the San Joaquin Section Division V Football playoffs. Their fate depends on their next performance and other teams with similar records around the Golden Empire League.

Mesa Verde are now 5-3 overall and maintain a .500 record in league play at 2-2 as they head into their final game of league play against Casa Roble High School.

“Offense, we need some work, a lot of work. Defense, d-line (defensive line), good [work]. Way to push them back each time. Every play, every play,” said junior linebacker, Shae Johnson. “Other than that we just need to work hard and come back next week stronger.”

The Rams will enter the battle against the Mavericks with a 6-3 overall record, but hold an unbeaten record in Golden Empire League play, 4-0.

Casa Roble is coming off of a Friday night steamroll victory, 49-7, against Dixon High School.

Playoff hopes are on the line and the Mavericks are well aware of what needs to be done in order to advance to the San Joaquin Section Division V Football playoffs.

“We need to work harder,” said senior offensive/defensive lineman, Jaymee Simmons, “I don’t want this game to end. I want to keep going in the playoffs. We have to show Casa [Roble] what we can actually do.”

Upcoming games on Nov. 1 around the Golden Empire League begin at 7 p.m. Teams in action consist of: Mesa Verde vs Casa Roble, Dixon vs Mira Loma, and Woodland vs Pioneer.

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Marcus D. Smith
Marcus D. Smith

Sports Reporter Marcus D. Smith covers high school sports in Citrus Heights. Smith is a Sacramento-area native and earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2017.

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