By SIM RISSO
For The Union Democrat
SACRAMENTO—Friday night marked the final preseason tune-up for the Calaveras Redskins as they traveled to Sacramento to take on the Capital Christian Cougars. A slow start to the game ultimately plagued Calaveras as it fell to the Cougars, 27-12.
“We were way flat,” said Calaveras center/defensive tackle Jason Leatherman of the Redskins’ first half performance. “Everybody was over-thinking things. They were over-thinking their checks, not playing the right positions, not going to the right spots and everything.”
Capital Christian immediately took advantage of the situation, getting their first score — a 65-yard run by Austin Wolfe — 90 seconds into the game, giving it an early 6-0 lead.
Calaveras was able to answer on its first drive, which started with good field position due to three illegal procedure penalties on Capital Christian, who had 19 penalties on the night.
A nine-play 55-yard drive by Calaveras, which culminated in a 1-yard run by Kellen Hodgson, tied the game, 6-6, with 5:55 remaining in the first quarter. But, from there, Capital Christian would score 15 unanswered points, taking a 21-6 lead into the half.
After Capital Christian’s early success running the ball, the Redskins were able to shut down its ground attack. That, coupled with numerous penalties, kept putting the Cougars in 3rd-and-long situations. But Capital Christian was able to capitalize, largely due to the play of their quarterback, Jacob Woehler.
“Really, we stopped their run pretty good after the first play,” said Calaveras head coach Jason Weatherby. “Then they had to do something because they were in 3rd-and-forever, and we just couldn’t stop that. We had packages that put them in open positions. It kind of surprised us that their quarterback was that good. We weren’t anticipating that because we haven’t seen that in any film that they’ve had.”
Woehler, in the first half, threw for 116 of his 128 passing yards, and helped put Capital Christian ahead 21-6 at intermission.
Meanwhile, the Cougars were able to stifle the Calaveras offense throughout the first half, excluding the Redskins’ opening drive. In the first half, Calaveras was only able to gain 74 yards (21 passing and 53 rushing). On top of that, the Cougars forced three sacks, an interception and a safety all during the first half of play.
When the Redskins took the field in the second half, it was clearly a more focused team. And they had a physical mentality in how they went about their business. On their first drive of the second half, Calaveras went on a nine-play 59-yard drive, which prominently featured Hodgson, who gained 46 of the team’s 59 yards, including the 1-yard score off-tackle.
“At halftime, we just thought we could run right at them, and we did,” said Weatherby. “We ran off-tackle and we pretty much gutted them.”
Another drive by Calaveras moved the ball to the Capital Christian 9-yard line, but from there the Cougars were able to get a turnover on downs as the third quarter ended, with the score still 21-12.
But Calaveras had shown the ability to move the ball on the ground against Capital Christian, gaining 119 rushing yards in the third quarter alone.
“We blocked harder, had harder runs,” said Donovan Vassey of the Redskins ability to move the ball on the ground in the third quarter. “We were just putting it out there on the field.”
“I think that’s how we should have moved it the whole game,” said Leatherman. “That’s how it should be.”
Of those 119 third-quarter rushing yards, Hodgson gained 105, a stellar effort by the junior.
“He played hard on offense when he was running the ball,” said Weatherby. “He played really well. He ran the ball really hard.”
Despite all its success running the ball in the third quarter, Calaveras wasn’t able to get much going in the fourth quarter, as Capital Christian was able to force two crucial turnovers.
On top of that, the Cougars were able to turn one of those turnovers into a touchdown off a 9-yard run by Demetri Crenshaw with 4:39 remaining, and giving them a 27-12 lead.
Both teams were equal scoring in the second half with six points each, but Calaveras gained more yards than the Cougars, 169 to 87.
The big difference in the game came in the first half, when Capital Christian was able to move the ball effectively and capitalize on a slow start by Calaveras.
“Our team came in here flat,” said Weatherby. “We had an hour and 15 minute bus ride to here, and I could just tell it was very loosey goosey when we were getting dressed. We just weren’t focused on the game, and that’s my fault. I need to get them focused earlier and be a little more vocal, I guess.”
The regular season will start next week for Calaveras. The Argonaut Mustangs will travel to Calaveras to kick off Mother Lode League play. After Friday’s demoralizing loss to Capital Christian, you can bet that Calaveras will be a focused team.
“I think coming off this loss, and how flat we were, we should come up real high,” said Leatherman. “We’re gonna do a lot of good practice. We have break now, so we’re gonna have lots of extra time to practice. So we should come out good, come out real tall and ready.”