LATHROP-For wide receiver Karson Canaday and quarterback Dylan Fernandes, Friday night's football game felt at times like they were little kids playing together in the backyard.
Canaday hauled in two touchdown passes from Fernandes and also returned a punt 70 yards during the Sonora Wildcats 49-7 thrashing of the Lathrop Spartans.
Fernandes first connected with Canaday on a 20-yard touchdown on the last play of the first half.
"Dylan and I have been best friends all our life," said Canaday. "Tonight was like the same thing we used to do in the backyard, same post pattern, everything. It was a lot of fun."
"We've known each other since we started to walk," said Fernandes. "(Mark) Relei was out this week, which was unfortunate, but Karson came in and stepped up. He's got amazing speed. Coach (Kirk) Clifton put that new play in this week and we missed it the first time we tried it - I threw it a tad too far. We came back to it, and I was like, 'I'm getting it to him,' and I got it to him and thank gosh he made it into the endzone."
The score capped an explosion in which the Wildcats scored 21 points in the final 1:25 of the first half to take a 35-7 lead.
Just 35 seconds before his touchdown reception, Canaday grabbed a bouncing punt off the turf and returned it 70 yards for a score.
"The reason I picked up the punt was that I didn't want Clifton yelling at me," said Canaday. "I didn't see anything or anywhere to go at first and I thought I was gonna get murdered. But the next thing I know, I got a block or two on the outside and I saw a cut-back lane and as soon as I saw that, I knew I was gone."
"Karson put on a little show for us tonight," said Wildcat co-captain Austin Davis. "On his punt return, I didn't think he was gonna get the ball, it was bouncing and there was two guys within a few feet. I was yelling at him, 'pick it up, pick it up,' and he did and took off."
Sonora fullback Brandon Camara provided first-quarter fireworks.
Camara shed several Lathrop tacklers on his way to a 31-yard touchdown on the Wildcats' first possession.
After Lathrop tied the game with 34 seconds left in the first quarter, Camara sent the Wildcat faithful, who likely out-numbered Lathrop fans, and the Golden Regiment marching band into a loud celebration.
Camara exploded through a hole created by his offensive line and outran everybody en route to a 70-yard touchdown.
"I saw him running and got real happy," said Wildcats center Ian Fremd. "I start running downfield trying to find more people to block, or push him and give him some extra yards, but that kid runs hard."
"It's a big relief knowing that we did our job," said Wildcat right guard Joey Schultz. "He's getting down the field and getting those extra yards for us - it's a good feeling."
The Wildcats surprised everybody with an onside kick following Camara's second score which LaPertche recovered. But the Wildcats turned the ball over on the next play, temporarily keeping Lathrop in the game.
Sonora went up 21-7 when slotback Christian LaPertche took a pitch from Fernandes and won the race to the pylon from five yards away.
The second Fernandes-to-Canaday touchdown came with 6:37 left in the third quarter and it came on the same post pattern, this time it covered 38 yards.
That score signaled the end of the game for the Wildcat starters.
But the second-string picked up where the first left off.
Steve Lawrence rambled 45 yards down the sideline in an, 'I'm not going to be denied style,' for the final score with 1:15 left in the third quarter.
While the Wildcat offense pretty much had its way, the Nolan Dambacher-led defense was suffocating the Lathrop option attack.
The senior middle linebacker made a team-high eight tackles and helped the Wildcats limit Lathrop to 34 yards rushing on 25 attempts. Overall, Lathrop had 108 yards of offense.
"We know that offense really well," said Dambacher, also a co-captain. "So we knew what they were gonna run and we read it really well. Everyone played good on defense. They really couldn't do much of anything against us. We played four quarters tonight and that's something we haven't done all year. We hit them in the mouth from the first to the last play."
The Wildcats also intercepted three passes.
Nose guard Kyle Loyd grabbed the first one off a deflection at the Wildcat 5 in the first quarter after Lathrop returned a kickoff 84 yards.
Casey Holman snared the Cats' second interception in the second quarter and Thomas Erwin made his second interception in as many weeks early in the third quarter. He also caused a fumble prior to his interception by smashing the Lathrop quarterback as he was releasing the ball.
For the Wildcats (4-1, 2-0 Valley Oak League), Camara had 128 yards on eight carries, Shawn Madruga carried four times for 56 yards, Dambacher had 54 yards on eight carries, Lawrence had 49 yards on two attempts, Davis had 35 yards on his only carry and Fernandes completed 6 of 8 passes for 91 yards and also rushed for 28 yards.
The Wildcats racked up a season-high 481 yards, 390 on the ground.
Sonora will next face Kimball (1-4, 0-2 VOL) on Friday at 7 p.m. at Dunlavy Field.
"We have Kimball next week and they're a good team," said Dambacher. "This game should give us a lot more confidence that we can play four quarters of football. I think we'll have some confidence going into that game and I think we should do well."
"This game gives us momentum and shows we can play and put up a lot of points," said Davis. "But we shouldn't get over-confident about this because we're not gonna be able to do this against every team. We have to go out there and practice everyday and take on every team as a new opponent and give 100 percent every time."