LIVERMORE FALLS — It seemed every time Winthrop turned around or got something going, Spruce Mountain was standing right there messing up the works for the Ramblers.
Spruce pulled off some spectacular plays on defense, like Brandon Frey’s eye-opening 101-yard interception in the first quarter and Zach Toothaker’s 80-yard kickoff return in the beginning of the third quarter — all which contributed to the Phoenix’s 38-6 victory over Winthrop at chilly Griffin Field on Friday night.
“We need to get in better shape,” Spruce Mountain coach David Frey said. “I know that and they know that.
“There was times when we held our own ground and stopped them. They are a very good team. They throw well. When he (Keegan Choate) has time, he is one of the better quarterbacks in this league.
“I am pretty pleased with what we did tonight.”
Senior Tate Walton got the ball rolling with a 12-yard touchdown, followed by Toothaker’s kick to put the Phoenix ahead with a 7-0 lead with 8:42 left in the first quarter.
The Phoenix put the Ramblers on hold on the next possession, got the ball back and moved to the 39-yard line where quarterback Jack Bryant unleashed touchdown pass to Frey. The kick failed, but Spruce Mountain was feeling pretty good with a 13-0 lead.
But the Ramblers marched right down the field through a series of throws from Keegan Choate, who passed the night away when Winthrop’s rushing game became null and void due Spruce’s stingy defense.
Chote got the Ramblers all the way the 2-yard line after completing four passes. But when Choate tried to complete another in the end zone, Frey snatched it in air and bolted down the length of the field with no time left in the first quarter.
The conversion failed, but Spruce Mountain was feeling pretty good about its 19-0 lead.
“I thought I was going to get hit from the side,” Frey said. “But I ended up going all the way and felt great.
“I saw one of the kids down there. I gave him a high-five. That’s what I did at the end. He was rallying. He was all over the place.”
Choate threw 16 passes, completed 10 with one interception for 140 yards in the first half. The Ramblers only rushed the ball for 39 yards.
The second quarter featured Winthrop’s push to get something on the scoreboard, but that never happened.
“Too many mistakes,” Winthrop coach Dave St. Hilaire said. “We can’t make mistakes like that. They blitzed early and disrupted our running game. We had guys go down … and we had to put guys in who don’t normally play those positions.
“Just like last year, nothing would go our way again. It was just like the Twilight Zone.”
Toothaker made fans sit up and take notice on the first kickoff the second half. He raced 80 yards down the field for a touchdown and booted the extra point for good measure and give Spruce a 26-0 lead.
Walton collected his second touchdown of the night, rushing 4 yards into the end zone to put the Phoenix in command with a 32-0 lead.
“Tate Walton did really well. I told him he was going to get the ball a lot,” David Frey said.
The Ramblers finally scored in the fourth quarter when Choate reeled off 32-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Baird with 4:05 left in the game.
The Phoenix responded with their last touchdown when backup quarterback Camden Phillips scored on 53-yard keeper.