Sanger’s ground game, defense wear down Hawks

Apaches run all but one offensive play in second half of methodical 21-7 football victory against Centennial High, improve to 4-1 heading into bye week

Sanger High running back Israel Robles drags a trio of Centennial High tacklers during the third quarter of the Apaches’ 21-7 non-league victory over the Golden Hawks on Sept. 15. (Jon Earnest)
Sanger High running back Israel Robles drags a trio of Centennial High tacklers during the third quarter of the Apaches’ 21-7 non-league victory over the Golden Hawks on Sept. 15. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published September 18, 2023  • 
9:00 am

SANGER – The Sanger High Apaches had a simple formula for putting away the visiting Centennial High Golden Hawks in the second half of their Sept. 15 non-league football matchup – running the ball behind a large and physical offensive line.

Throwing only one pass in the final 1 1⁄2 quarters while nursing a touchdown lead, the Apaches chewed up a good portion of the remaining 24 minutes while adding an insurance score to pull away for a 21-7 victory at Tom Flores Hall of Fame Stadium. Running back Israel Robles rushed for 211 yards and a pair of TDs as Sanger improved to 4-1 while completing a rugged non-league schedule.

“That was super impressive at the end,” SHS head coach Matt Logue said of his offense and front line, which marched downfield on an 80-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter and then ran out the game’s final 11 minutes predominantly on the ground. “I don’t know how long it was, but to keep the ball away from them and end the game was pretty impressive.”

Impressive and workmanlike, as the Apaches ran senior Robles 27 times behind a front line of tackles Nathan Velasquez (300 pounds) and Jonathan Ybarra (285 lbs), guards Adrian Ortiz (230) and Adrian Sosa (272), center Jordan Guzman (230) and tight end Cody Coles that kept pushing the Centennial (3-2) line steadily back a yard or two.

“We played really hard teams like Clovis and Clovis East, and I feel that really prepared us for this game,” said Robles, who scored on runs of 4 yards in the first quarter and 9 yards in the third quarter following a long, physical run. “I was really just focusing on the plays, I was new here this year and just needed to get familiar with the plays and players.”

Sanger got two interceptions from sophomore defensive back Carlos Young Jr. and a fumble recovery from Jacob Neimeyer as the defense helped pick up the slack for the absence of two-way standout Marquis Cropper, who saw out with an injury. Young’s first pass theft set up the Apaches at the Centennial 15 yard line midway through the first.

Sanger then struck as quarterback Jaden Chanthalangsy found Bryson Baker for a 20-yard touchdown about four minutes into the game. The defense forced two punts around a Centennial interception, and a long run by Robles set the stage for Robles’ first TD that made it 14-0.

The Golden Hawks got their only score of the night on a 33-yard run around right end by Angel Lozano two minutes into the second quarter, and after forcing a punt the visitors seemed poised to get the tying score after completing a pass inside the SHS 10. But a shotgun snap eluded quarterback Adam Copus, and Neimeyer pounced on the ball at the 9. Sanger then ran out the clock to take a 14-7 lead into the locker room.

The second half story was the Sanger offensive line, which road-graded the way to a 302 yard rushing night starting with the 80-yard drive featuring two big runs from Robles. After Sanger’s defense forced a punt on the ensuing series, the offense ran more time off the block before Centennial had its final possession late in the third.

From the Sanger 43, a pass deep downfield was swiped by Brown for his second interception. The Apaches took over at their own 3-yard-line with 11:12 remaining, but put on an inspiring ground-dominated drive that ran out the rest of the game.

The lone pass came on third-and-6 at the Sanger 20, but Chanthalangsy found Baker for a first down at the 30. The line and ground game then took over, converting twice on third downs to move into Centennial territory before another big run by Robles took it to the 27. The Apaches then ran out the clock.

Baker finished with 50 yards rushing including a 30-yard run, and also had three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown.

“The only thing that’s really stopped us (offensively) all year has been ourselves, when we make penalties and plays like that,” Logue said, “We’re pretty good up (front), we’ve got to stay healthy and keep them all together,; but I’m very proud of our (defense), we played great to hold that team to seven points is pretty damn impressive.”

Sanger now enters its bye week as it prepares for the County Metro Athletic Conference season. That begins Friday, Sept. 29 at home against the Justin Garza Guardians.

“We’ve got a lot of guys dinged upm and we can rest then. I mean, these guys have earned some time off,” Logue said.

Jon Earnest