When it came time for victorious Chula Vista coach Judd Rachow to hand the massive Legacy of Pride trophy to the Spartans’ most deserving player in the game, the decision was a no-brainer. He called for Isaac Martinez and handed him the trophy that would soon be emblazoned with Chula Vista’s 35-28 victory in the 65-year history of ongoing games against the Sweetwater Red Devils.
The somewhat diminutive in stature Martinez did his best to lift the prize that symbolizes the two schools’ rivalry game, the longest continuous rivalry series in San Diego County.
“This game is a legacy,” Martinez said, somewhat lost for words in the emotional moment.
He obviously let his actions do the talking for him on the field.
Martinez returned three kicks — two kick-offs and one punt — for touchdowns in last Friday’s non-league gridiron match-up. His first touchdown came on a 91-yard kick-off return after the Red Devils had taken a 6-0 lead on a 27-yard interception return by Daniel Castro.
The two plays helped electrify the large crowd and get the fans into the proper rivalry mindset. It would be a wild ride from there — for both teams as well as Martinez.
Sweetwater, which features a vastly improved team from last season’s 1-9 finish, regained the lead at 12-7 when Castro hauled in a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sal Nasser.
But Martinez was waiting his turn and returned the ensuing kick-off 81 yards for a score.
The first half ended 15-14 in favor of the visitors after SuHi punctuated a drive deep into CVHS territory with a 14-yard field goal.
The Devils looked to make it their game after that point when Nasser capped the team’s opening drive in the third quarter with a one-yard run around end. The extra point gave Sweetwater a 22-14 lead.
But Martinez kept the Spartans in the game by ripping off another big play — a 75-yard punt return to start the fourth quarter. The two-point conversion attempt failed but Chula Vista was back within striking distance at 22-20.
Things continued to look promising for the Devils when they blocked a field goal try with 7:18 left in the fourth quarter to retain their two-point lead on the scoreboard.
But exit Isaac Martinez and enter Javante Reed, who capped two Spartan scoring drives in clutch time with touchdown runs of 13 and 42 yards.
Reed ran in a two-point conversion with 4:22 left to make it 28-22 CV. His breakaway score with 1:34 remaining made the score 35-22.
The Devils, however, fought to the bitter end. Castro caught a three-yard touchdown pass with 36.9 seconds left in the game. But the Spartans recovered the ensuing onsides kick attempt, and the game ended with the hosts in victory formation.
“Isaac saved our butt,” Rachow said flatly. “He kept us in the game with his kick returns, especially in the first half when Sweetwater controlled the game and our offense couldn’t get much going. They are a much improved team. But we kept coming back and we finally got on top.”
The victory was the Spartans’ sixth straight in the series, though the Red Devils continue to lead the series 36-26-3.
Sweetwater’s last win in the rivalry came in 2002. The teams tied in 2005.
The Red Devils host Granite Hills this Friday while Chula Vista hosts Hilltop in the teams’ 10th annual Kiwanis Bowl game.
An offensive weapon of the first order, Nasser completed 15 of 22 passing attempts against the Spartans for 191 yards while also rushing 14 times for 84 yards. Castro had 109 receiving yards at CVHS.
From left, Chula Vista’s Isaac Martinez scoots ahead on one of his three kick returns for a touchdown in last Friday’s game, while Spartan coach Judd Rachow hoists the championship trophy and Sweetwater quarterback Sal Nasser did what he did best in the game ... scramble for a touchdown.
The unprecedented power outage on Sept. 8 that plunged San Diego and Imperial counties into darkness did not force the cancellation of the following day’s high school football games. All teams were able to play their scheduled games after power was restored in the wee hours of Friday morning.
Kiwanis Bowl X: Hilltop (0-2) at Chula Vista (1-1)
Friday, Sept. 16
Game time: 7 p.m.
Series: Chula Vista leads 7-2
Last year: Hilltop 35, Chula Vista 14
Chula Vista preview
Last Friday’s 35-28 victory against visiting Sweetwater avenged a disappointing 22-21 season opening loss at Granite Hills. The Spartans’ offense was minimal against SuHi until the hosts turned it on in the final quarter with 21 points to erase a Red Devil lead.
Javante Reed rushed seven times for 78 yards and scored twice, including a 42-yard TD romp that stood up as the game-winning touchdown. Donovan Mendez rushed 10 times for 33 yards. Aside from Reed’s breakaway run, no other CV runner could gain more than eight yards — a testament to the Sweetwater defense.
Ricky Estevez completed eight of 12 passing attempts for 71 yards with one interception returned for a touchdown. Reed had three catches for 25 yards while Richard Walker had two catches for 35 yards.
Defensively, Michael Molina keyed the Spartan defense with 12 tackles while teammate Alex Toilolo had 11 stops. Molina also blocked a field goal attempt. while Rudy Jaimes and Adrian De La Vega each registered picks.
Isaac Martinez’s three TD kick returns was the obvious difference in the game. He finished with three kick-off returns for 189 yards, including scores of 91 and 81 yards, and three punt returns for 109 yards, including a 75-yard TD.
It was another disappointing finish for the Lancers, who saw a hard-fought 7-3 lead evaporate in the final 1:20 of last Friday’s game as the visiting Patrick Henry Patriots scored on a pass from James McCormick to Derek Haring to pull out a 10-7 non-league win.
For Hilltop, quarterback Omar Hernandez passed for 162 yards and tacked on 94 rushing yards (with one touchdown run). Montel Campbell rushed 19 times for 105 yards to give him 307 yards in two games. Abraham had four catches for 62 yards while Jon Ruiz hauled in a 60-yard pass. The Lancer defense registered seven sacks and one pick.
Eastlake 35, Scripps Ranch 0
Otay Ranch 41, Serra 10
Chula Vista 35, Sweetwater 28
Castle Park 35, San Ysidro 7
Montgomery 40, El Cajon Valley 14
Mater Dei Catholic 48, Escondido Charter 12
Paraclete (Lancaster) 9, Olympian 7
Patrick Henry 10, Hilltop 7
Steele Canyon 34, Bonita Vista 10
Holtville 28, Southwest 0
High School Football Rankings
San Diego Sportswriters Association Poll
Eastlake (2-0), 2. Helix (1-1), 3. Oceanside (1-1), 4. Cathedral Catholic (2-0). 5. Poway (2-0), 6. Mt. Miguel (2-0), 7. Mira Mesa (2-0), 8. Torrey Pines (1-1), 9. La Costa Canyon (1-1), 10. St. Augustine (2-0), 11. San Pasqual (2-0), 12. Westview (2-0), 13. Point Loma (2-0), 14. Mt. Carmel (2-0), 15. Madison (2-0), 16. Mission Hills (0-2), 17. (tie) Santana (2-0), Vista (0-2)