By GUY DOSSI
For The Union Democrat
SACRAMENTO - For the second consecutive week, the Calaveras Redskins forced a turnover deep in their own territory late in the game to seal a victory.
Mike Seawell's interception with1:16remaining in the fourth quarter capped off a terrific game for the senior, and helped the Redskins preserve a 33-28 victoryon Saturdayafternoon over their hosts, the Rio Americano Raiders.
"They were driving and we had our backs up against the wall," said Redskin linemen Emmett Barrett. "If they score that's it, it's over. Mike came up big like he always does and made a huge play. He's a playmaker."
Turnovers played a major factor in the game, which came into play for the Redskins on their first drive of the game. The Skins drove 67 yards, courtesy of a 23-yard run by sophomore Cameron Moore and a 12-yard run by Seawell in which senior receiver Austin Arledge had a huge block. With the ball on the Raiders 4, the Skins fumbled away their scoring chance.
"Turnovers are huge," said Redskin lineman Logan Sullivan. "You can't drop the ball on the goalline. Not only do you lose the ball but you also lose your momentum."
Barrett, the Redskins defensive end, made sure the momentum loss wasn't long-lived.
Barrett rushed hard off the edge and blind-sided Rio quarterback Shaun Dhillon at the Raider 41 separating ball from body. Redskin senior Blake Ehlers picked up the fumble and rumbled to the Raider 2.
On the next play, junior Connor Hamilton plunged into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
"Emmett and Blake were both playing heads up football," said senior lineman Cameron Heimann. "Emmett got past his man and blew up that quarterback and Blake was in position to pick up the fumble and make a play out of it."
The score stayed 7-0 in favor of the Redskins until midway through the second quarter when the Raiders converted a long fourth down into a touchdown to tie the game.
Just 13 seconds later, Seawell was celebrating in the end zone after returning the kickoff up the gut for 90 yards. The Skins were unable to convert the PAT leaving the score at 13-7.
"I saw Emmett (Barrett) nail one of their guys so I figured I would go right there because it was wide open," Seawell said. "Once I was able to get past the kicker, I knew I would score."
"Mike is the heart and soul of this team," said Redskin quarterback Justyn Thornburg. "We always know that if we need a play, let Mike touch the ball. He always comes up big in clutch situations and this team has a lot of faith in him."
Rio Americano answered with the right arm of Dhillon, and a couple of costly Calaveras penalties. The Raiders grabbed their first lead 14-13 with3:30remaining in the second quarter on a Dhillon pass to Kadyn Silva for a 6-yard touchdown.
With1:25remaining in the first half, Seawell decided to take over. The elusive senior put together back-to-back runs of 40 and 36 yards, and then capped the touchdown drive with a 4-yard burst keyed by a key block from Ehlers. The 2-point conversion failed and the Skins took a 19-14 lead into halftime.
"Mike did awesome," said Sullivan. "That's our job up front, just block for Mike. He will go if we block. He's a guy that always runs hard and he is just a solid ballplayer. When we need a big play we look to Mike and he gets it done."
The Raiders recovered a fumble and then recovered the lead 21-19 shortly after on a Connor Shatz 3-yard run with6:23left in the third quarter.
"Everything in this game came down to mistakes," Sullivan said. "We were not playing disciplined football. We were letting it get to our heads."
The Calaveras offense moved the ball again, 72-yards to the Raider 8 to end the third quarter.
The Redskins jumped back in front as Thornburg found his tight end, Ehlers, open in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard score. Hamilton converted the 2-point conversion bringing the score to 27-21.
"Everybody knows that we are a running team, so I really wanted to show that we could throw the ball too," Thornburg said. "It was a big momentum switch when we got Blake the ball for a touchdown."
The following Raiders possession ended in a fumble as junior safety TJ Crenshaw not only stripped the ball from receiver Chris Moor, but recovered it at the Raiders 30 with8:54remaining.
One play later, Hamilton scored on a 30-yard run for his second score of the game making the score 33-21. Hamilton ended the day with 72 yards on 11 carries with two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion.
Rio Americano would once again put a drive together but yet again, the Redskins defense made a big play as Overly intercepted a Dhillon pass on the Redskin goal line, and returned it 17 yards.
The following play, the Redskins fumbled the ball back to Rio Americano and it took one play for Dhillon to connect with Jason Heathers for a 15-yard touchdown making the score to 33-28 with5:25remaining in the game.
Calaveras recovered the Rio Americano onside-kick at midfield and marched to the Raider 5 before turning it over on downs with2:46left.
The Raiders went to the air and made it to the Redskin 15 before Sullivan broke through from his defensive tackle position, and sacked Dhillon for an 11-yard loss.
"All day I was so close to getting to the quarterback and I knew that eventually I was going to get him," Sullivan said. "I just went hard and gave it my all and I finally got to him."
"They had all the momentum," said Heimann. "They were marching the ball right down our throats and it didn't seem like there was anything we could do to stop them. Then all of a sudden Logan drops the quarterback for a sack. I mean it was huge."
On 3rd-and-25, the Raiders went to the air one last time. Dhillon's pass was a wounded duck, and Seawell out jumped the receiver, intercepted the pass, and the Skins went on to win 33-28.
"On that last drive we just needed to clean it up," Sullivan said. "Yeah they were driving on us and we had some bad mistakes and penalties, but when teams are driving on us towards the end of the game, we can't blow up on ourselves. We made big plays in the end, so we were able to capitalize when we needed too."
"This win was definitely a building block," Thornburg said. "It's a good win, it's a 'W' and I'll take it any way I can get it. We are definitely going to build and become stronger because of it."
Seawell ended with a game-high 159 yards on 18 carries with one rushing touchdown. He had 261 total yards and 2 touchdowns. As a team, the Redskins rushed for 282 yards and three scores. Dhillon led all passers with 242 yards on 34 attempts with three touchdowns and two interceptions. The Raiders led in total offense 373-305 and time of possession 27:54-20:06. Each team had four turnovers.
"In games like this, not only do see what you look like when you play with mistakes, but you also use games like this to build the heart of a team," Sullivan said. "Football is won with the heart and that's what showed today. All-in-all we made enough big plays to win the ball game."
"I think this game was more of a learning game," Heimann said. "We won, and we needed the win, but the score shouldn't have been as close as it was. We had way too many penalties and turnovers. We need to do better next week because Lodi is a good team."