Win or go home: Del Mar ends Prospect’s storybook season as Dons clinch league title and trip to CCS playoffs

Del Mar CCS is in the playoffs after Latimore runs for 344 yards and scores five times: “That number 3 for Del Mar, he’s a special athlete”

SARATOGA, NY – Del Mar’s playbook was simple on Friday night, with a league championship and a Central Coast Section playoff spot on the line.

Del Mar put the ball in the hands of Andre Latimore on 22 of its 30 plays and let him go to work against Prospect. In the Dons’ 42-31 victory, the senior quarterback carried the team on his shoulders, rushing for 344 yards and passing for another 61.

It was the Dons’ first playoff appearance since 2017. In the Blossom Valley Athletic League’s “C-League,” only the West Valley champion was guaranteed a postseason spot.

“We’ve been grinding for this for four years straight,” Latimore said after scoring four touchdowns on the ground and another through the air. “To finally succeed, it’s the best feeling I could possibly feel right now.”

Prospect’s players sobbed as their season came to an end, while Del Mar celebrated on the other side of the field. After going 0-10 in the tougher BVAL Santa Teresa-Valley division in 2022, the Panthers finished 2023 one win away from their first playoff appearance in recent memory with an 8-2 record.

“To turn it around, from 0-10 to 8-2, that means everything to me,” said senior quarterback Tommy Lewit, who finished with 220 yards and three touchdowns. “Me and all the other seniors were just trying to turn the program around.”

Latimore’s dash on the first play of the second half was perhaps the most important. He took the snap from the 20-yard line, found a gap in the Prospect defense, and outran a pack of chasing Panthers for an 80-yard touchdown, giving Del Mar a 10-point lead.

After Prospect cut Del Mar’s third-quarter lead to 28-25 on an 11-play drive that ended with a Tommy Lewit touchdown run, Latimore hit a 61-yard field goal to give Del Mar a 10-point lead.

Del Mar’s superstar sprinter seemed to have the answer whenever Prospect appeared to be catching up. Latimore even threw his seventh touchdown pass of the season to Jake Schwoob late in the fourth quarter, nullifying Prospect’s late touchdown run.

“I work too hard to not play the entire game,” said Latimore, who also forced and recovered a fumble on defense.

Del Mar’s crushing rushing attack, which had averaged 335 yards per game entering Friday night, delivered the first blow. The Dons took a 14-0 lead into the second quarter, thanks to Latimore’s two rushing touchdowns.

After that, Prospect’s offense got going, with Tommy Lewit capping a five-play drive with a 41-yard rollout pass to Jordan Sharpe. With 10:53 left in the half, the burly senior shook off several tacklers and outran a few more down the right sideline to cut Del Mar’s lead to 14-7.

The Dons immediately gave the ball back to the hosts by fumbling on the ensuing kickoff. Six runs later, Lewit snuck into the end zone and used a “Panther push” a la the Philadelphia Eagles to take a 15-14 lead.

Del Mar appeared to be in trouble when it fumbled again on its next drive, but the Dons’ defense made the crucial play.

With six minutes left in the half, Julian Reyes Vargas ripped the ball away from a Prospect ball-carrier, and Bradley Tavish scooped it up and ran it back 15 yards for the touchdown and a 21-15 lead.

“When we got it back and scored, that changed the game,” said Del Mar coach Robert Chapman. “That was one of our seniors that picked it up.”

Prospect added a field goal late in the first half to cut the deficit to 21-18 at halftime. The Panthers dominated possession time and ran twice as many plays as Del Mar (62-30).

They had no response for Latimore, whose opponent will be revealed on Sunday.

“That number 3 for Del Mar, he’s a special athlete,” Prospect coach Rick Esparza said. “He’s going to be tough for anyone to stop.”

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