HESPERIA • For one night at least, the old clichι about defense winning games turned out to be true.


In fact, the Sultana defense was the Key.


The Sultana defense forced four fumbles, picked off three passes including one returned for a touchdown, and didn't allow Hesperia to score a touchdown until there was about a minute remaining in the game as the Sultans won the 16th Key Game 38-10 on a chilly Friday night at Scorpion Stadium.


"We had a hard week of practice and just keep playing with heart," Sultana senior linebacker Jeremiah Pele said. "The coaches told us that we were the heart of the team and without the heart the body can't move. With that our defense came together."


It was a major turnaround for Sultana (6-2, 1-2 Mojave River League), which had given up at least 40 points in its previous two games.


"All week long we just worked on flying to the ball, because we've had a problem with that the last couple of weeks," Sultana head coach Blake Robbins said. "We had a really good defensive gameplan. The defense played well, the offense did what they needed to do and we came out with the win."


Against the hard-hitting and opportunistic Sultans defense, the Scorpions (1-7, 0-2 MRL) struggled to record any sustainable drives. The Scorpions entered the red zone just twice, and spent most of the night in the middle of the field. Hesperia quarterback James Manibusan completed less than half of his passes.


"We turned the ball over too much, we couldn't get going offensively and just couldn't get in a rhythm," Hesperia coach Jeremy Topete said. "They definitely came out to stop the pass, and they outnumbered us out there."


While the Sultana defense held down the Scorpions, the offense struck immediately, scoring on its first three drives en route to a 28-0 second-quarter lead.


After adding 10 more points in the third quarter to take a 38-3 lead, the fourth quarter was played with a running clock.


Sultana quarterback Andrew Robbins, in his first game back since suffering a bruised kidney against Oak Hills, ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns and added a passing touchdown to lead the way.


To win in his first career Key Game start was extra special for Robbins. By virtue of the fact that his dad has been on Sultana's coaching staff since the school's opening, Robbins has watched every single Key Game, first from the stands as a toddler, then on the sidelines as a ball boy and on the sidelines as the Sultans backup quarterback.


"It feels so good, I can't even explain it," he said. "I saw the tradition grow in this game and to win it and be there, I never thought I'd be there ... but now that I'm there it just feels great."


Sultana running back Darnell Aponte added 101 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.


Sultana opened the scoring with a smashmouth, 14-play, 58-yard drive. All but one of the plays was a run, with Aponte punching it in from three yards out.


The Sultans added some style points at the end of the quarter, when Robbins kept the ball on a read-option, scrambled 23 yards and flipped high over the pylon as the buzzer sounded to give Sultana an early two-touchdown lead.


The Sultans piled it on in the second quarter. First on a quarterback sneak, Robbins disappeared into a pile, emerged on the other side and hit the Hesperia sideline for a 89-yard touchdown run. On Hesperia's ensuing offensive possession, defensive end Terrance Lange sniffed out a screen pass and picked it off, then rambled 31 yards untouched into the end zone to set the rout in motion.


Sultana 14 14 10 0 — 38


Hesperia 0 3 0 7 — 10


First Quarter


S — Aponte 3 run (Sneden kick)


S — Robbins 23 run (Sneden kick)


Second Quarter


S — Robbins 89 run (Sandoval pass from Robbins)


S — Lange 31 interception return (kick failed)


H — Williams 25 FG


Third Quarter


S — Sneden 31 FG


S — Rodriguez 10 pass from Robbins (Sneden kick)


Fourth Quarter


H — Chaney 3 run (Williams kick)


Kyle Glaser can be reached at kglaser@vvdailypress.com or at (760) 951-6274.