By SIM RISSO
For The Union Democrat
Friday night was homecoming for the Calaveras Redskins at Frank Meyer Field, and the Mesa Verde Mavericks were in town to oppose Calaveras.
As the Redskins entered the field they ran through a tunnel of Harley Davidson motorcycles, all revving their engines, the crowd and the players.
“I’m part of student council and so I got to put a lot of work into it,” said junior running back Kellen Hodgson. “Like the bikes, I’ve been dreaming about that. I was talking to Mikey Seawell on the way down. We remember years ago when our brothers were running down, we were standing right there, right next to the bikes. And it got us fired up.”
Then right before the game kicked off the speakers began to blast the Guns N’ Roses hit, “Welcome to the Jungle,” off the band’s infamous album, “Appetite for Destruction.”
It was a fitting song selection for the occasion, considering the Redskins clearly had an appetite for destruction as they took control of the game from the opening kickoff and trounced the Mavericks, 33-7.
Calaveras opened the game with an eight-play, 61-yard drive, that was capped off with a 3-yard touchdown run off right tackle by Hodgson, giving the Redskins an early 7-0 lead.
Then the Calaveras defense took the field and quickly forced a three-and-out, getting the ball back on the Mesa Verde 37-yard line. Seven plays later, Calaveras took a 13-0 lead on a 4-yard touchdown run by senior fullback Austin Weatherby.
Mesa Verde would get the ball back, but it would be short lived, as Donovan Vassey would force the first of his two interceptions in the game.
On their third possession, the Redskins made it look just as easy, going on a 14-play, 84-yard drive that took 4:55 off the clock and was finished off with a 4-yard scamper by Robbie Weaver, giving Calaveras a 19-0 lead.
That made it three possessions and three rushing touchdowns for the Redskins. But it wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the work of the Calaveras offensive line, which absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage.
“(Troy) McCann, (Noah) Schuller, both of them were covered all night long, but they did a great job,” said Calaveras head coach Jason Weatherby of his O-line play. “Kyle Nichols on the other side, on the strong side, he did good. Coleman Kassick, whenever we did the sweep to his side, he always got the hook block — that’s what makes the play develop. Then Jason (Leatherman), of course, is Jason. He back-blocks and does what he does. He’s a good player, too.”
Mesa Verde got the ball to start the second half, but was quickly forced to punt after a three-and-out, giving Calaveras the ball at its own 23-yard line.
Hodgson quickly moved Calaveras to within striking distance as he took the first carry of the drive for a 40-yard run up the right sideline. Then five plays later, Hodgson took it to the house on a 22-yard run that started off left tackle, before he broke it to the left sideline. After the score, the Redskins had extended their lead to 26-0.
“The coaches have been telling me to cut quicker and stop hesitating as much,” said Hodgson, who gained 122 yards total on 11 carries. “It was just as they said and the holes opened up.”
“I thought Kellen ran the ball the best we’ve seen him this year, so he’s finding himself in our offensive scheme,” said Coach Weatherby.
On the very next play, the Mavericks would get their only score of the game, which came on a 70-yard kickoff return by Andre O’Neal, cutting the score to 26-7.
But Calaveras would quickly answer, with Weatherby going untouched for a 25-yard rushing touchdown, which was set up by a nice 55-yard kickoff return by Seawell.
It was a stellar performance for the Redskins on both sides of the ball. The Calaveras offense racked up 319 yards on the ground (382 total) behind the excellent play of its offensive line.
“For the most part, I think we did great,” said Schuller of the line’s performance. “We’re still improving. I think we could get to the point of perfection. We could probably become one of the best lines in the league, the way we’re going.”
Not to be outdone, the Calaveras defense was just as impressive. The Redskins defensive unit only allowed 177 yards, seven first downs and they forced three turnovers. Like with the offensive unit, a huge part of their success was due to the defensive line play, which won the battle at the line of scrimmage and allowed the linebackers the space to roam and make tackles.
“The defensive line played great,” said junior inside linebacker Joe Elliott. “They got in their gaps. They’ve still got to work on finding the ball once they’re there, but they did a really good job. They get in there and they move (offensive) linemen. Now we’ve just got to work on getting off O-line blocks.
“It was a great effort by them. It helps us out a lot—the defensive backs, the linebackers. When the linemen do good, everyone else does good.”
Elliott’s sentiment was backed by Coach Weatherby, who had nothing but positive things to say about the play of the defensive line, especially its ability to allow the linebackers to make plays.
“With our slant techniques, and whatnot, they’re going to free them up even more,” said Weatherby. “They did a good job getting penetration. We didn’t show them the same thing all the time, so they couldn’t get to the linebackers because they didn’t know where our D-line was gonna be. It helped out a lot.”
Overall, it was a great victory for Calaveras. They dominated both sides of the ball and they got a much-needed victory after falling in their last two games.
“I’m glad this didn’t go the other way,” said Elliott. “That’s the biggest thing. We could not lose another game and be a 1-3 team. We are not that team. This is just something we had to do. We had to win this game. Hopefully this is something that just keeps us going. We needed this. And we need the next six. We’ve lost too many already.”