When fullback Brandon Camara first touched the football on Friday night during Sonora’s come-from-behind victory, it produced combustible results.
The Wildcats trailed Weston Ranch 23-14 with under 40 seconds left in the third quarter. They faced a third-and-9 from their own 36.
They needed a spark.
What they got was an explosion.
Camara took a handoff, and in the blink of an eye, like he was fired out of a high-powered rocket launcher, exploded through a huge hole in the Cougar defense and raced 64 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
“The play was supposed to go the other way but Dylan (Fernandes) audibled at the line to go the other way,” said Camara. “And this hole opened up so wide that all I saw was green and nothing else. I just took off. Seeing that big of a hole is like dessert in the morning. It was so awesome.”
“I was reading my key and the defender came straight up the field,” said Fernandes of quarterbacking the Wildcats’ spread option attack. “I knew Camara was fast enough to scoot underneath him so I gave it to him. And I’m not kidding, that hole opened up so big, you could have driven a truck through it. Joey Schultz (right guard) had just come into the game and I think it was Sammie Guthrie at tackle — the hole was unbelievable.”
“I was blocking the guy right in front of me and I just drove him down into ground,” said Schultz. “I get up and see Camara running down the field — that was satisfying.”
“That was huge for us,” said Wildcat head coach Bryan Craig. “We’re down by nine and it’s late in the game, and there was no energy on our sideline — none. And when Brandon made that play, everything changed. It was like someone hit a light switch and the energy was on our side and we were able to build off that.”
Camara struck again with 4:27 left in the game. He carried Cougar defenders for most of a hard-charging, 12-yard scoring romp to give the Wildcats their first lead, 27-23.
Two plays later, Wildcat junior safety Thomas Erwin made his first play of the night on defense memorable.
Erwin stepped in front of a Weston Ranch receiver, intercepted the pass, and 63 yards later, after evading several tacklers, was celebrating in the endzone.
“I just stayed on my guy and did what I had to do,” said Erwin. “When I saw the ball coming, I got a good break on it. I caught it, got a good block and scored.”
“It was an amazing play,” said linebacker Nolan Dambacher who led the Wildcat defense with 13 tackles. “He just got put in on that play. He was prepared, he knew what to do and was in the right place at the right time. He’s a good player, he works hard and he came into the game and look what happened.”
Sonora, with its 20 points in just over eight minutes, took a 34-23 lead and had much-needed breathing room because Weston Ranch answered two plays later on an 82-yard scoring toss to make the game close with 2:50 left.
The ensuing onside kick attempt was recovered by Guthrie and Camara ran for six yards on fourth-and-2 to help the Wildcats run out the clock and preserve a 34-29 Valley Oak League-opening win.
“I have to tip my hat to Weston Ranch,” said Craig. “They came out and wanted that win. They played good physical football and took advantage of some mismatch assignments we had and played great.
“It was kind of a weird game. It seemed like everything that could go wrong for us did. Luckily we got it together in the second half and we were able to overcome the deficit.”
The Cougars kept the Wildcat offense off the field for much of the first half — rushing for just enough yards to move the chains. The Cougars owned the ball for 17 of the first 24 minutes.
Weston Ranch (1-3, 0-1 VOL) had 27 carries for 82 yards in the first half. They had just 21 yards on 15 carries in the second half.
The Cougars scored on the games’ opening drive, a 44-yard pass play.
Just 25 seconds later, Dambacher ran through the heart of the Cougar defense for a 21-yard touchdown to tie the game.
The Cougars took a 14-7 lead on a short scoring run with 15 seconds left in the first quarter.
With 3:42 left in the half, Wildcat sophomore fullback Steve Lawrence scored on a 1-yard plunge to tie the game.
Weston Ranch kicked a 32-yard field goal in the final minute to take a 17-14 halftime lead.
“They came out firing on all cylinders,” said Dambacher. “They have good running backs, they’re fast. They came out playing hard which may have surprised us a little bit. But in the second half, we came out, played harder and were able to get the win.”
“They definitely came out faster and harder hitting than we expected,” said left guard/ nose guard Kyle Loyd. “It was physical inside tonight. It was definitely a battle. I gotta give it to my guys though, we pulled it together when we had to. But we need to have more spark to us. We seemed a little flat out there in the first half.”
The Wildcats bludgeoned the Cougars’ defense for 349 rushing yards on 46 attempts — a whopping 7.9-yard average per carry.
For Sonora (3-1, 1-0 VOL), Camara had 122 yards on nine carries, all in the final 13 minutes of the game, Dambacher had 84 yards on 12 carries, Austin Davis had 50 yards on seven rushes, Fernandes had 67 yards on 12 attempts,Tyler Thomas had 21 yards and Christian LaPertche had one run for 10 yards.
On defense, Mark Relei had nine tackles, including a fourth-quarter sack, Austin Davis had seven tackles and Walter Leyva had six.
The Wildcats next will travel on Friday to face the Lathrop Spartans
“We came out flat again tonight,” said Fernandes. “We’ve go to stop doing that. We need to come out explosive from the first play to the last play, from pre-game until right now. We need to come to practice ready to work hard.”