By GUY DOSSI
For The Union Democrat
Calaveras Redskins enjoyed a night where the outcome of the game was not on the line going into the final minute of the fourth quarter, as has been the case for the past three weeks, and cruised to a 28-12 win at Frank Meyer Field.
With the Redskins overall goal being Mother Lode League champions, every victory brings them one step closer.
"Tonight was a big step for us because it allows us to keep momentum going for the remainder of the season, and to go after that league title," said junior running back/safety T.J. Crenshaw.
The Redskins jumped out to an early lead through the air, which caught the Lions off guard. The Skins, being primarily a running team, used play-action to their advantage and it worked.
Redskin quarterback Justyn Thornburg hit a wide open Mike Seawell streaking down the Redskins sideline for a 43-yard touchdown.
"That pass was planned all week, and we knew we were going to run it early," said Thornburg. "Mike got a few steps on his guy, and I had no problem getting it out there for him. I am very confident throwing to Mike because if he doesn't catch it, no one will."
"Defensively, Linden is very aggressive and their corners look inside to see what is going on, so I knew that they would bite on play-action," said Redskin head coach Jason Weatherby.
Up 6-0 with7:37remaining in the first quarter, the Skins embarked on a 75-yard drive that chewed six minutes off the clock.
With the ball on the Calaveras 48, the Skins were looking at a 3rd-and-9 and once again, they went to the air.
Thornburg connected with Blake Ehlers for 16 yards and a Calaveras first down. Two plays later, junior Conor Hamilton ran 22 yards for the score. Hamilton then converted the two-point conversion on a pass from Thornburg, bringing the score to 14-0 with1:33in the first quarter.
"Conor played super well tonight," Weatherby said. "He ran the ball hard, blocked hard, and I am now starting to trust that he will do that all the time."
The Redskins defense fed off the home crowd's enthusiasm all night which helped hold the Lions without a first down until the middle of the second quarter.
Linden finally got that elusive first down and was building a drive when Crenshaw stepped in front of a Lion receiver for an interception, his second of the season.
"Our defensive play tonight in the first three quarters really impressed me," Weatherby said. "We played hard, disciplined, and they did exactly what they are supposed to do."
The Linden turnover led to a Redskin touchdown. With4:02remaining in the second quarter, Hamilton took a handoff, read his linemen's blocks, changed directions to the outside, and rumbled 59 yards.
"I felt pretty fast out of the gate, but then I saw there was nothing inside, so I had to bounce it outside," Hamilton said. "Once I was able to get the corner, I realized there was nobody around me, so I had no problem scoring."
Thornburg connected with senior Austin Arledge for the two-point conversion to go into halftime with a 22-0 lead.
The Redskin defense continued its dominance as senior Malachi Stockdale intercepted a pass early in the third quarter. The Calaveras defense forced Linden into five three-and-out series and only allowed six first downs.
"Defensively we did an excellent job tonight," said defensive coordinator Doug Clark. "They rallied to the ball and didn't allow a big play. Most of all, we stayed disciplined against the option, which is a must, and I think we did an outstanding job shutting that down."
Not only did the Skins slow down the Linden rushing attack, it was non-existent as the Lions rushed for 56 yards on 27 attempts for an average of 2.07 yards per carry. Calaveras out-gained Linden 339-180.
"Linden is an option team similar to Sonora, and we knew that if we do our jobs and everyone does what they are supposed to do, the outcome will be in our favor," said lineman Logan Sullivan. "We didn't allow any big plays or make big mistakes, so I am pleased with the way we played tonight. When you just do your job and not try to be the hero of the defense, good things will happen for the team and that's what happened tonight."
Crenshaw, who rushed for 51 yards on 10 carries, scored the Skins final touchdown on an 8-yard burst. After an unsuccessful PAT, the score stayed 28-0 with9:29remaining in the game.
"I was just doing my part, doing what needed to be done to get a 'W' at the end of the night," said Crenshaw. "Our offensive line was checked in and absolutely solid tonight. We came out tonight fired up and ready to protect our house. We do not lose at our house."
Linden put up 12-unanswered fourth quarter points, but could not overcome the huge deficit.
Hamilton led all rushers with 119 yards on 18 carries and two scores, bringing his season total to 526 yards and six scores. Thornburg had 97 yards passing and one touchdown, with two, two-point conversion completions.
"We played well defensively tonight but we need to play a full four quarters the remainder of league," Hamilton said. "When we get to teams like Amador, Argonaut, Summerville, teams that are really tough. We can't be anything less than perfect."
"Tonight's win was huge because the most important game is the one at hand," Weatherby said. "If you overlook somebody or are thinking about games down the line, that's when bad things happen. Linden is a good enough team that if we overlooked them they could have gotten us."
With one league game in the bag, Calaveras will now put their focus on 6-0 Amador who is coming off a 41-6 victory over Bret Harte.
"We need to take everything one game at a time," said Sullivan. "The MLL is a good league this year and it is good to get that 1-0 start. We need to just chip them away one-by-one."