By Cole Weinstein
Riding high off of the 33-6 defeat of Verbum Dei, the 1-0 Spartans traveled on Friday, September 4th to the also undefeated Salesian High School , a powerhouse with a 12-5 playoff record since 2004.
The game began as a physical tug of war between the two teams, with only 161 offensive yards by both teams combined in the first half. It was also a game full of penalty flags and turnovers, but by the end of the half, the Spartans were only down 7-0 in a game that many thought wouldn’t be close.
With the Spartan defense playing well, it looked like a possible upset was in the cards. Even with another touchdown with 3:42 left in the 3rd quarter, many Spartan faithfuls were thinking a turnaround was still possible.
That’s when things turned ugly. With just a couple minutes left in the 3rd Quarter, Spartans outside linebacker Angel Salazar came off the field and over to the La Cañada sideline sporting red eyes and a white paste like substance on his face and jersey. Prior to that, Angel was on a roll, having recorded 4 tackles and an interception. He claimed that a Salesian player had thrown or wiped a chemical like substance, thought to be “Icy Hot,” in his face. Coach Zerbel pulled the Spartans off the field and the game was paused while the referees attempted to sort things out.
The long delay left little settled, though, and, unable to definitively determine what happened, the referees agreed to file a formal complaint with CIF against the Mustangs and player Rahyme Johnson for further investigation. Spartan players who were on the field at the time of the incident claimed Rahyme, a junior who recently committed to play at UCLA, had the white substance all over the front of his pants. He was also spotted washing his hands and gloves with water.
Despite multiple attempts to contact them, Salesian had no comment on the matter.
Whatever momentum the Spartans had prior to the controversial incident was squelched. Following the delay, the game turned messy. Two quick touchdowns by the Mustangs flipped the once close game on its side and the Spartans ended the night with a 27-0 loss.
There was something positive that came out of the incident last friday night: La Cañada’s tight knit bond was shown.
“We're a family,” said Coach Zerbel. “That's really gonna make the difference for us.”
Every player came to Angel’s defense and felt as if a slight against one of their “brothers” was an attack on the whole team.
Angel was not seriously injured and returned to the game. Even though they eventually lost, the Spartans showed that they can hang with the “big boys” and plan to “get it back next week,” according to Zerbel. With renewed drive, they are already preparing for their first Rio-Hondo League matchup a few weeks down the road.
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LA CANADA, PROUD AND GRAND. ALMA MATER SHALL FOREVER STAND.