By Guy Dossi
For The Union Democrat
OAKHURST—The Calaveras Redskins football team used a combination of big plays and turnovers in Friday night’s season opener to defeat their hosts, the Yosemite Badgers, 64-21.
The Redskins’ ground-and-pound rushing attack, led by senior Mike Seawell’s 214 yards on just eight carries, churned out 472 yards and six touchdowns and junior quarterback Wyatt Durham added two fourth quarter touchdown passes to senior Keith Hall to lead the offensive attack.
Calaveras took the lead for good in the first quarter helped by a trick play. Seawell lined up to punt, but instead ran 14 yards for a first down. That set up a 3-yard score from running back Connor Hamilton, who followed tackle Derek Rittenhouse into the endzone.
“I love the toughness out of him,” said Rittenhouse of Hamilton. “He’s not afraid to get hit. He played a great game for his first varsity game.”
Yosemite tried to answer, driving to the Redskin 13 before turning the ball over on downs.
And then the Redskins struck quick.
On the first play, Seawell took a handoff and broke a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, and turned it into an 87-yard touchdown and a 14-0 Skins lead after one quarter.
“We ran the sweep and faked the dive, and it was just open,” Seawell said. “Only one guy saw me with the ball and the rest of the defense went with the fake. We had really great blocking up front.”
Seawell would find the end zone on the Skins’ next drive. After returning a punt 41 yards, a couple of plays later, Seawell followed senior lineman Duncan Franklin through the Badgers’ defense for a 32-yard score and a 22-0 lead with 11:33 left in the half.
After trading fumbles, the Redskins’ defense turned up the heat.
On 1st-and-15, Redskin linebacker Danny Gilmore hauled down on Badger quarterback Joey Woolsey for a 10-yard sack.
On 2nd-and-30, Redskin Terelle Williams was bearing down on Woolsey and forced him to throw early.
Big mistake for the Badgers.
Redskin linebacker Blake Ehlers stepped in front of the receiver, intercepted the pass, and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown.
“I was just reading my keys like always,” Ehlers said. “I read pass, dropped back and I saw the quarterback eyeballing the wing for a cross over the middle. I was able to read it, jumped it, picked it, and my teammate Logan Sullivan took out two guys on the return that helped me score.”
The Redskins added two more points on a Justyn Thornburg pass to Ehlers for a two-point conversion bringing the score to 30-0 with 7:28 remaining in the first half.
Gilmore lengthened the Skins’ lead with a 3-yard touchdown run making the score 37-0 at halftime.
Redskin head coach Jason Weatherby was pleased with the big plays that helped his team earn a comfortable halftime lead.
“This is the first time in three years where we have had big-play capabilities,” said Weatherby. “We’ve had big plays throughout a season, but never so many in the same game. Also, for our defense to get a pick-six and to play the way they did shows they are coming along pretty well.”
The Badgers’ Cody Elam returned the kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to get Yosemite on the board and quickly converted a turnover into another touchdown to make it 37-14.
“When you’re up 37-0, there’s always going to be a little bit of let up and I think that’s what happened,” Weatherby said.
The Redskin boss kept the ball in the hands of Seawell to keep the game out of reach. Shortly after the Badgers scored their second TD, Seawell broke free for a 45-yard scoring run, his third of the game.
“The line provided huge holes,” Seawell said. “The guys up front did a fantastic job tonight.”
The Redskins added 13 fourth-quarter points on touchdown passes of 2 and 10 yards from Durham to Hall, with a final score of 64-21. Durham finished 2 for 2 for 12 yards and two touchdowns and starting quarterback Justyn Thornburg, who sat out the majority of the second half when the game got out of hand, was 4 of 6 for 28 yards. Ehlers and Hamilton caught two-point conversions.
Seawell averaged more 26 yards per carry and the Redskins, as a team, averaged more than nine. Calaveras out-gained Yosemite 512-179.
Junior T.J. Crenshaw showed his speed and agility on a 40-yard touchdown run and finished with 65 yards, only behind Seawell and Hamilton, who rushed for 113 yards on a game-high 17 carries. Crenshaw, a safety, started for the injured Malachi Stockdale and impressing his coach on both sides of the ball.
“He didn’t just go through the motions out there,” said Weatherby. “He went hard all the time. He attacked and hit in a way I have never seen him hit. To me that’s huge because now he’s getting confidence in his ability to hit. We plan on using him as much as we can on offense and on defense.”
The Redskins defense allowed only 179 yards. Their line was led by seniors Sullivan, John Boyes and junior Santino Combs, who applied constant pressure and disrupted any tempo the Badgers were trying to establish.
The secondary did their jobs as well, collecting three interceptions. Seawell and Hall had picks to go along with Ehlers. In total, the Redskins forced five turnovers.
“Any time you can keep a team under 200 yards of offense is pretty darn good,” Weatherby said.
“We played solid,” said Seawell. “We came out a little flat, but we came back from it and we just started hitting. I feel really good about our team. Still there is a whole bunch of work to do. We just need to tighten up, but yeah, overall I feel really good.”