HANFORD - Coaches usually aren't happy after a 42-0 loss.
That wasn't the case Friday at Neighbor Bowl.
Despite losing to East Sequoia League foe Strathmore by that score, Sierra Pacific head coach Dion Tate was more than happy how his team played on homecoming night.
Going into the game, Strathmore, the defending Central Section Division VI champion, had been averaging 64 points per game over its past three games on its way to a 6-0 start.
And while the scoreboard didn't show it, Sierra Pacific showed signs of improvement while falling to 1-6 overall and 0-2 in the ESL.
“What some people don't understand is we graduated 30 players from last year's team,” said Tate. “We started three sophomores on the line. We only have a couple seniors. We're still young.”
Those 30 seniors helped guide Sierra Pacific to last year's Section title game, where the Golden Bears lost to the Spartans 46-20.
On that night, Strathmore running back Joseph Garcia torched the Golden Bears on 31 carries for 277 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
On Friday, Sierra Pacific was able to hold the standout back to one of his least productive totals of the year as he finished with 24 carries for 156 yards and three touchdowns. In the team's first six games, he had already rushed for 1,006 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Sierra Pacific trailed just 7-0 after the first quarter after making it tough for Strathmore to move the ball while also having some success of its own.
On the opening drive of the game, Sierra Pacific took 11 plays to move from its own 21 to inside the Strathmore 10-yard-line before the drive stalled. On the way there, quarterback Will Springer connected on five of six passes as the Golden Bears used its spread offense to give receivers space to make catches.
Starting on its own 8-yard-line, Strathmore went 92 yards on 10 plays for its first score of the game with Garcia finishing the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. Both teams went 3-and-out on its next possession.
Sierra Pacific went on another long drive in the second quarter before a fumble gave Strathmore possession back. The Golden Bears also committed 16 penalties in the first half as the Spartans extended its lead to 21-0 by the break.
Garcia scored on a 32-yard run while Fabian Alcantar broke off a 61-yard touchdown run later in the second quarter on the first play of the drive.
On the opening possession of the second half, Strathmore needed just two plays to score again with Garcia scoring from three yards out. The Spartans added two more touchdowns as the game ended with a running clock.
For Sierra Pacific, Springer was 18-of-33 for 245 yards. Jayson Littlejohn had nine catches for 68 yards.
The Golden Bears will now prepare for Granite Hills for a Thursday game. The Grizzlies are currently considered one of the top three teams in Div. VI.
Tate expects for the Bears to continue to grow.
“We're starting to become a team,” Tate said. “It takes some time but we're starting to get there.”