Semi-Pro Football Finally Kicks Off In the Barrio After experiencing an untimely venue contract glitch that unfortunately cancelled their January 10th Exhibition season opener against Baja California’s, Ensenada“Diablos,” the East Los Angeles“Spartans” took prompt, corrective measures and finally opened the stadium gates to the community. Thus, on January 24th, they began their one game 2015 pre-season, as they hosted the Riverside “Redskins.” Although the final score did not reflect a Spartans win, nonetheless, the first Semi-Pro football franchise in, and for East Los Angeles, proudly and very capably established its presence through the age-old saying,“where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Let’s give you a summary of the game from Spartans owner, Niko Gonzalez’s perspective. “I felt that our team played very hard. There were a few questionable calls that hurt us, and in hind-sight, did cost us the game. Our defense was simply awesome. It was led by #10 Louie Rodriguez, #17 Lekwame “Q” Aluqdah and #23 Rico Gonzalez. They all had a solid opener. We won the “turn-over” battle with a huge interception from #19 Maurice Scudder, and two fumble recoveries. Our offense struggled, but they will get better. At this point in the season, it’s par for the course, and as soon their chemistry comes together, our offense will no doubt be one of the top offenses in the league.” When asked about the Spartans untimely turnovers, Niko replied, “one occurred on a backwards pass that Riverside ran back for a TD, and later, an interception they ran back for another score. If those plays never happen, we win a close game, 8-6.”
In speaking about about the significance of representing East L.A. as a Pro franchise, he had this to say. “I love being the only Pro team in town. We had a good turn-out for our first game and I look forward to having an even better turn-out for our second, February 7th against the San Diego “Hornets.” It’s going to be our 1st“Special” promotion of the season offering FREE admission to ALL active and non-active Veterans and I’m inviting our East L.A. Spartans Board of Directors, as well as the huge football-loving East L.A. community, to come out and support us. Our fan-base is growing and I’m very excited for this season and the future of my program. Also, many of our local players have reached out to me inquiring on how they can join the team. As a new team, we always keep fundraising in mind, and with that, we’ve added a week-long “Fundraiser” scheduled for Feb. 23-24-(no 25th)-26-27-28. It will take place at Jay’s Pizza in Monterey Park, located at 2412 So. Garfield Ave., Monterey Park, CA 91754. Fans can either bring in the actual flyer we’ll be distributing at our next two home games or just mention they came out to support the East L.A. Spartans and 20% of the total revenues raised will go to the team.
We next spoke with Head Coach Ernie Navarro, who gave us his “Opening Game-Day” summary. Here are several of his comments. “With the beginning of every team’s new season, the pre-season is used to view the progress your team has made from Day 1 of the off-season. For my Coaching Staff and I, it’s a good time to learn what kind of a team we will have for the season, as we look for good character, skills/abilities, and leadership.” In his game recap, Coach said, “First I’d like to thank our opponent for a very well-played game. They are a tough team. Our defense played extremely well, allowing just 6 points while forcing three turn-overs and holding firm on four, tough goal-line stands. However, we did have a few missed tackles and I felt that we needed to be in better “game-shape.” Our offense struggled a bit in both rushing and passing. Our three quarterback rotation is still in competitive mode and it’s not yet clear who our starter will be. Thus far, it’s been a pretty close fight. We’ll continue to evaluate and use this extra “Bye” week to make our decision as we start league play. Our running backs Zaq Owens and Tony Alaniz ran the ball really hard and looked good. Our O-Line still needs more work, but I believe we have a really good crew now in place. Our Wide-outs could be a huge strength this season as we have a very talented corps that includes: Harold Arnold, Dreww Benn and Michael Rivera (who left the game with a injury in the 1st quarter). There’s no doubt that our offense will improve week-by-week and will produce many explosive and exciting plays this season.” He closed his comments saying that, “I’d also like to personally thank our fans who came out and supported us. And starting on Feb. 7th, our focus and goal will be to win one game at a time in hopes of making the playoffs and competing for a State championship.”
Brief Game Summary: The unanimous“Player of the Game” game was Riverside’s #75 Mike Fields/DB-Safety, who scored two TDs on stunning and dazzling plays. His first came on a returned a fumble for a 37 yd. TD just before the end of the first half. The play in question was a backward pass that hit the ground and was ruled to be “live.” He then capped off his impact game with a 35 yd. “Pick-6” late in the fourth quarter which put the game out of the Spartans’ reach. Riverside QB Mike Hamilton was credited with a 4th quarter 1 yd. scoring run in between Fields’ two TDs. East L.A. scored its only TD when Zaq Owens (former Roosevelt “Rough Rider”) scored on a 3 yd. dive with 1:24 left in the contest. At the final buzzer, the scoreboard read Riverside 20, East L.A. 8 in this PACWEST Exhibition encounter.
For Spartans ticket and sponsorship info, go to www.eastlosangelesspartans.com Rico Cabrera, Sr./EastLASportsScene.Com
Credits: East L.A. Spartans Logo & Artwork, Edgar E. Santos; Photo Gallery, Erik Sarni
Photo Gallery: Click on each photo for an enlarged view.