By Guy Dossi
For The Union Democrat
LODI - The Calaveras Redskins football team has been quite successful in close games this season, winning its past two games by one score each. But the Redskins were unable to keep that streak aliveFridaynight and dropped their final preseason game to the Lodi Flames 40-38.
In a game that had 78-combined points and 12 touchdowns, it was the Redskins defense that came close to making the big play.
"They did exactly what we thought they were going to do," said Redskins safety Malachi Stockdale. "We didn't do a good job against the pass, and we were not wrapping up when we needed to make a tackle. We're just not making plays like we normally do."
Right out of the gate, Lodi put together a 60-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard quarterback sneak by David Simon giving the Flames a 7-0 lead.
The Redskins could not get off the field on third down and that turned out to be their Achilles' heel all night.
"We were not making the plays that we could have made," said Redskin lineman Derek Rittenhouse. "We couldn't get off the field on third down and all that came down to missed tackles."
"I feel like we wanted to feel them out at the start for some reason," said Redskin Conor Hamilton. "Instead of going out and hitting and making them play to us, we played to them. We need to do a better job of coming out hard and fast."
With the Calaveras offense preparing to take the field, T.J. Crenshaw made them wait a little longer as he returned the ensuing kickoff 94-yards for a quick score, tying the game at 7-7.
"All the blockers made a huge hole," Crenshaw said. "I couldn't believe how much open space there was for me. It was wide open. I knew I was going to go all the way about halfway through the return. All I had to do was beat a lineman who was straggling along, and the kicker. I knew that if I got taken down by the kicker, my teammates wouldn't let me live it down so I had to score."
The Flames replicated their first drive with help from the Redskins to retake the lead on a Simon to Timothy Sanguinetti touchdown pass.
"We had too many mental errors," said Hamilton. "We had penalties on third-and-short and on fourth-and-long. Just dumb penalties."
By the time the second quarter was underway, the Redskins had only run two offensive plays compared to the Flames 23, and found themselves trailing 14-7.
Calaveras took over on the Flames 15-yard line following a 7-yard punt with9:56remaining in the second quarter.
Redskins sophomore Cameron Moore made the Flames pay for the poor punt with a 4-yard touchdown to make the score 14-14 at halftime.
To begin the third quarter, the Redskins got some momentum with Danny Gilmore leading the charge with tough runs of 13 and 15 yards. Calaveras moved the ball 59 yards to the Flame 3 and gave the ball to Mike Seawell, who ran up the middle untouched into the end zone. Seawell's score gave Redskins their first lead of the ball game, 20-14. Even with a missed PAT, the Redskins felt the momentum had begun to shift in their favor.
"Our whole offensive line can feel when we have momentum," Rittenhouse said. "When we have momentum, the offensive line will beg to run the ball. We have five linemen that are prepared to block for the run at all cost, every play of the game.I feel that offensively we did a darn good job."
With the Redskins holding on to a six-point lead halfway through the third quarter, Calaveras had Lodi back on their heels looking at a 3rd-and-17 with the ball on their own 42-yard line. Simon dropped back to pass in the pocket and found Anthony Jory behind the Redskins secondary for a 58-yard reception. After the extra point, Lodi regained a 21-20 lead with5:43remaining in the third quarter.
Calaveras answered right back with a 77-yard drive. A 21-yard pass from Justyn Thornburg to tight end Blake Ehlers during the drive was the longest pass play of the night for the Skins. They scored on an 11-yard run by Seawell, where he broke three tackles on his way to his second score of the night.
The Redskins two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the score 26-21 with1:15left in the third quarter. On that drive, Hamilton was the workhorse and he ended the night with a game-high 121 yards on 18 carries.
"Connor ran really well," Seawell said. "He kind of grew up and was running like a man. He is running a lot better than he was at the beginning of the year. He's hitting the hole hard and is playing really well, and I'm proud of him."
The momentum that Calaveras had, would be taken back as the Flames capped a 53-yard drive with a touchdown pass to grab a 27-26 lead which they would not relinquish.
Following the score, Lodi recovered a surprise onside kick and had possession at the Redskins 43. Simon would once again connect with Sanguinetti for a 14-yard strike, making the score 34-26 lead with7:03remaining.
"I don't think we expected them to be as big and fast as they were," Seawell said. "They are a Division I school, so they have some good athletes, a very good quarterback, and we went into the game playing them like they were just another 1-3 team. But they showed they are much better than their record indicated."
Down by eight, the Redskins had time to put a drive together, and possibly tie the game. Seawell's 43-yard kick return gave the Redskins excellent field position on the Flames 32. A combination of hard-nosed running by Gilmore and Hamilton took the ball down to the 1-yard line, where Hamilton took the ball in, bringing the score to 34-32 with4:25left. The two-point conversion failed.
"Our offense moved the ball really well," Stockdale said. "Our offense was doing everything that they could. In the beginning it was a little shaky, but we calmed down and moved the ball really well."
Lodi recovered the Calaveras onside kick, and two plays later they scored to make it 40-32. Redskins Emmett Barrett blocked the extra point.
"We didn't tackle very well in the first half," Seawell said. "Come to think about it, we didn't tackle much better in the second half. We didn't do our assignments, we made mistakes, we didn't play our best game and it showed."
Calaveras rallied and Seawell scored his third touchdwon, a 10-yard run, to cut into the Lodi lead but the two-point conversion failed, leaving the score 40-38.
Calaveras attempted an onside kick, but was unable to recover.
"The only good thing that comes out of this loss is when we lost to Modesto Christian, we came out the next week and had a great week of practice and went on to beat Sonora," Hamilton said. "It hurts to lose, but it motivates us, and motivation is key once league starts."