By SIM RISSO
For The Union Democrat
Trailing the Modesto Christian Crusaders, 25-20, in their home opener at Frank Meyer Field, the Calaveras Redskins got the ball back at their own 29-yard line with 3:34 remaining. The Redskins needed to drive 71 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
To open the drive, the Redskins went with a play that had been working all night long, an outside sweep to sophomore Mike Seawell with Austin Weatherby out front as a lead blocker, netting 10 yards.
“Seawell does a great job setting the block up,” said Weatherby. “He’ll cut inside and make the blocker go in, then I have a chance to block him in, then he’ll cut out again. It’s nothing I really do except get in his way.”
Now with first-and-10 from their own 39-yard line, Zach Johnson dropped back to pass. After a quick three-step drop, Johnson connected with tight end Brian Golston for a huge 22-yard gain.
“It was supposed to be a Y hot pop pass, but the guy shifted over, so I thought I’d just go up behind him,” said Golston. “Zach just threw a perfect ball to me. It just connected right at the right moment. I should have broke free from that.”
Two consecutive plays by Weatherby — one an 8-yard run and the second a nice 11-yard swing pass from Johnson — moved the ball to the Modesto Christian 20-yard line.
Runs by Seawell, Hodgson and Weaver took the ball down to the Crusaders 11-yard line. Calaveras was facing fourth-and-1 with 0:38 remaining. A quarterback sneak by Johnson gave the Redskins two yards and the first down.
Calaveras was now facing first-and-goal at the Modesto 9-yard line. They had traveled 62 yards, but still needed nine more yards for the winning score and were running short on time.
Another run by Johnson took it down to the 4-yard line. But from there, the Crusaders’ defense would make a stand, forcing three consecutive incomplete passes and capturing the win, 25-20.
“We were trying to get down into a position to be able to score,” said Calaveras head coach Jason Weatherby. “We drove the ball quite a ways and got down there pretty close. And then basically ran out of time. If we had another minute on the clock or another timeout, it might be a different story. But we just couldn’t get it.”
Coming into the game, the Crusaders had shown the ability to put points on the board scoring 41 points and 34 points in their first two games. Calaveras was able to hold the Crusaders high-powered offense to 25, so in that sense it was a real solid effort from the Redskins.
“The defense overall did good,” said Calaveras defensive coordinator Doug Clark. “That quarterback’s excellent, like we knew. The receivers are good. It’s a solid offense. I knew it was going to be a solid offense. We knew they were going to score.”
But the area where the Crusaders were able to have their most success was with the big play, as they had five plays that went for over 30 yards. Two of those plays went for touchdowns. The first one was a 48-yard touchdown pass on a fake punt from Nathan Sudfeld to Kaden Cline with 0:53 remaining in the first half. The second was a 32-yard touchdown run by Javaughn Iversen with 11:48 to go in the fourth quarter.
“That fake punt killed us,” said Clark. “A couple of deep bombs, that hurts us. Overall, I think we stopped them decently, just the big plays again. They marched it and we held them. You just can’t give up that many big plays. You’ve got to stop the big plays. The big plays will get you.”
Calaveras, for its part, did a solid job on offense against Modesto, especially in the ground game. The Redskins were able to rack up 269 yards on the ground against the Crusaders with Austin Weatherby and Kellen Hodgson combining for 187 yards.
Two of the Redskins three scores came on the ground. Austin Weatherby scored from six yards out on the final play of the first half. Then with 7:59 left in the third quarter, Joe Elliott bulled his way into the endzone on an 8-yard run. The Redskins other score came in the second quarter on a fumble recovery by Troy McCann.
“Run-wise I thought we did really well,” said Coach Weatherby. “Pass-wise not quite as good. We didn’t throw the ball because we were able to run the ball. If we kept getting first downs running the ball then we’re good. But whenever you do that, a penalty puts you back in a position where you’ve got to throw.”
But a huge part of that success has to be credited to the offensive line, which did an excellent job opening up holes for the backs.
“I thought they performed really well,” said Weatherby of his offensive line. “We moved the ball every time. And the only time we didn’t was from a penalty — we had that chop block call that moved them back.”
Penalties were the Achilles heel for Calaveras with the team getting penalized nine times. And a few of those penalties came in crucial situations, which prevented Calaveras from sustaining some of its lengthy drives.
Coming up next is the Sonora Wildcats, who lost their game on Friday in similar fashion. It should make for a great matchup of two highly-motivated football teams.
“We played hard,” said Golston. “We had a couple of mental errors. We played hard and just fought. That’s all you can ask for. We’re going to go to practice and fix our mental errors. It’s all a mental part of the game. It’s just what it is. It’s in the books now, so there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve just got to look forward to Sonora. It’s going to be a fun ride from here.”