By GUY DOSSI
For The Union Democrat
MODESTO-As the Calaveras Redskins players were walking off the gridiron Friday night, their thoughts had already begun to shift from their 51-15 loss to the Modesto Christian Crusaders, to their upcoming game against future Mother Lode League rival Sonora.
It was a night most Redskins will like to forget and use as a learning experience, rather than dwell on Friday's result.
"Well, it's not a rivalry until both teams have won," said Redskins head coach Jason Weatherby. "And realistically, we haven't won it in quite a while."
"This senior class has never beaten Sonora and this is our last chance," said senior lineman Derek Rittenhouse. "We know for a fact that they come out, hit hard and are ready to play. They don't joke around. So we need to come out and practice hard all week."
The Calaveras team that took the field Friday night was not the same team that Redskins fans saw last week against Yosemite.
"We practiced for what they showed us out there," said linebacker Danny Gilmore. "We were not unprepared. We came off of a great win last week and expected to do better tonight, but just came out a little soft and it showed."
Down 7-0 in the first quarter, the Redskins found lightning in a bottle. Quarterback Justyn Thornburg dropped back and saw Mike Seawell running a slant across the middle. Thornburg threw a dart that only Seawell could catch and, much like he has done his entire Calaveras career, Seawell made two defenders miss and broke another tackle on his way to a 66-yard touchdown.
"We ran that formation earlier in the game and there was nobody on top of me, so I told coach," said Seawell. "A few plays later we ran it and it was open. It was a hot route - nothing complex - just simple."
At the start of the second quarter, the score was tied 7-7 and the Redskins had matched Modesto Christian blow-for-blow. But Modesto switched to a quick tempo, no-huddle offense, that started to take an effect on the Redskin defense.
"We knew they would run a no-huddle, but we really didn't look at it as a hurry-up," said Weatherby. "So when they picked up the tempo and started to go a little quicker, it got us a little bit, so it did play a factor. Plus a lot of our guys play both ways so they started getting gassed."
By halftime, the Redskins found themselves down 28-7. A huge reason for the score was Modesto quarterback Anthony Brooks who tossed three touchdown passes, two of which came within 50 seconds of each other in the second quarter.
"They are just big and physical," said Seawell. "They are a really good team and hats off to them. They are outstanding. We just came out flat tonight. We have a lot of weeks left in the season and a lot of games to be played. We're still a strong team."
The Redskins are a tough, physical running team that is great at eating up a lot of clock and keeping the game tempo in their favor. At this point in the season, they are not a team that is constructed to come back from a huge deficit.
Down 21 points, the Redskins went outside their comfort zone and threw the ball and Modesto was prepared. The Crusaders intercepted six passes and returned one of them for a touchdown.
"We couldn't run the ball so that made us have to pass," said Thornburg. "When we tried to pass, it seemed the defense knew we were going to throw, so that really changed how things went in the game. They did nothing different than what we saw on film."
The Redskin defense tightened up in the third quarter, allowing only three points on a 27-yard field goal.
"We played very well in the first and third quarter," said Weatherby. "Both quarters I think we put together almost the perfect package."
Calaveras was able to get in the end zone one last time on a Connor Hamilton 39-yard touchdown run. The Redskins added a two-point conversion on a pass from Jason Stokkeland to big tight end Blake Ehlers.
Even with the game out of reach, Rittenhouse was pleased with the execution on Hamilton's score.
"It was a run to the strong side," said Rittenhouse. "We opened up the hole and I remember looking and I saw him cutting back and the next thing I knew, he was in the end zone. I was happy because we were telling each other not to quit and to show heart."
Hamilton ended the night as the Redskins leading rusher with 47 yards and a touchdown.
Seawell combined for 132 yards of total offense, which brings his season total to 362 yards from scrimmage and four scores.
Thornburg passed for his first 100-yard game, ending the night with 103 yards and a touchdown, the first in his varsity career.
With the M.C. game now just a distant memory, the focus switches to Sonora.
"This loss is going to drive us," said Thornburg. "It's a big eye-opener of what we need to do and what we need to get done in practice, so we can come out and perform well against Sonora. We have to bump up the intensity in practice this week and we're gonna play our tails off."