By GUY DOSSI
For The Union Democrat
SUTTER CREEK - The Amador Buffaloes stepped onto the gridiron Friday night undefeated but stepped off defeated - courtesy of the Calaveras Redskins.
The Redskins kept Amador out of the end zone in the final minute to hold on and earn a 21-15 win. The victory inches the Redskins close to the coveted Mother Lode League title and moves them one step closer to clinching a playoff berth.
Both teams looked nervous early with Amador (6-1, 1-1 MLL) punting on their opening possession, and Calaveras losing a fumble.
Following the turnover on the Skins' 30, Amador took less than a minute to score on a Shane Sweet 2-yard run, giving the Buffaloes a 6-0 lead with7:37left in the first quarter.
Calaveras struggled early on offense but won the field position battle when Mike Seawell pinned Amador inside its own 1 with a punt.
The Redskins quickly forced the Buffaloes to punt and took over at the Amador 44.
After Skins running back Connor Hamilton ran for 7 yards on third-and-5, Calaveras quarterback Justyn Thornburg went to the air and found Seawell for a 31-yard touchdown.
Brian Cox added the extra-point giving Calaveras a 7-6 lead with 41 seconds left in the first quarter.
"They bit on the run because we showed play-action," Thornburg said. "Once the safety bit, I knew that I had Mike open one-on-one with the corner, so I threw it up and I knew he would get it."
Playing with the lead, the Redskins defense perked up and, yet again, forced Amador to a three-and-out.
With8:52remaining in the second quarter, Amador put a drive together, but a holding penalty forced the Buffaloes into a third-and-17 from the Redskin 35.
And then it was the Redskin defense holding the one-point lead into halftime. Redskin linebacker Danny Gilmore sacked the quarterback on third down and then Seawell intercepted a pass to kill the drive and into halftime.
"On the interception it all came down to me reading my keys," Seawell said. "I was watching the tight end and once he came at me, I knew he was running a pass route, so I stuck to him. The quarterback's pass was a little under thrown, and I was able to make a play for our team."
With8:26remaining in the third quarter, Amador put an 80-yard drive together that was aided with two pass interference penalties, and a 37-yard run by Donald White. White capped off the drive with a 16-yard run and Amador re-took the lead with5:31left in the third quarter. An unsuccessful 2-point conversion kept the score 12-7.
Calaveras answered back with an impressive drive, but it appeared as if the drive would end without points. With the ball on Amador's 41, Calaveras faced third-and-16.
Redskin boss Jason Weatherby called Seawell's number and the star did not disappoint, running 38 yards before being taken down at the Amador 3. Stockdale provided a key block to spring Seawell free.
"Malachi did a great job blocking for me on that run," Seawell said. "He blew a defender up, which gave me the chance to get the edge, so with blocking like that, all I have to do is run."
Two plays later, Gilmore not only added the go-ahead score from a yard out, but he also ran the ball in for a 2-point conversion, giving the Skins a 15-12 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Gilmore ended the night with 66 rushing yards on 17 carries.
"It was a battle out there all night," Gilmore said. "I was getting hammered every time I touched the ball. Not one yard that I ran for was easy. The offensive line practiced hard all week and did an excellent job tonight. I couldn't have asked for more from them."
Amador answered quickly with a 24-yard field goal from Jacob Gruenwald to tie the game at 15-15.
"The defensive effort was outstanding tonight," said defensive coordinator Doug Clark. "We knew that we would give up plays because Amador is a great team with a great offensive scheme, so we knew they would move the ball and score. To hold them to 15 points was fantastic. The players rallied to the ball and were outstanding."
With7:12left in the game, the Skins got the ball on their own 43-yard line, needing a score to win. On third-and-8 on the Skins 45, Thornburg went to the air and found Seawell for a 26-yard completion.
Seawell led all players with 57 receiving yards.
Three plays later, Gilmore carried three defenders on a five-yard run that set up fourth-and-inches.
Hamilton plowed through for more than enough for the first down, bringing the ball to the Amador 16 with his 4-yard run. Two plays later, Hamilton ran right behind center Emmett Barrett for an 11-yard touchdown and had a 21-15 lead with3:01left in the game.
"I knew we had plenty of time left in the game to put a drive together," Weatherby said. "We ran the ball right down the field to the Amador 11, and I knew we would score. Connors run was a play we didn't run all night, and it turned out to work perfectly for us."
"We knew exactly what we were going to do on the drive," Thornburg said. "We were going to punch them in the mouth and drive down and score. We stressed ball security, drove it right down their throats and scored. We stuck with what we normally do. We are a running team and they couldn't stop the run. When the pass was there, we took advantage of it."
A good kick return gave Amador the ball on their own 42. The Buffalos took advantage of 30 yards on Calaveras penalties and got the ball down to the Skins 9-yard line with1:27remaining.
"All I could think of was stopping them," Stockdale said. "There was nothing else going through my mind other than keeping them out of the end zone and getting the win."
On first down, senior defensive lineman John Boyes stopped an Amador running back for no gain. On second and third down Amador went to the pass and could not complete either attempt.
On fourth down and1:08left, the Amador quarterback could not find an open receiver and started to scramble. He threw to a receiver in the end zone but before the Buffaloes receiver could make the catch, Seawell came from nowhere to knock the ball out of his hands, and secure the win for Calaveras.
"We knew that the league title depended on one play, so we were just trying to pull out all the pride we had for one last play," Gilmore said.
"I knew that if we stopped them on first and second down, it would force them to pass, which is what happened," Clark said. "The last two plays, we ran a defense we didn't run all game, and then one we didn't run all year, and the kids just stepped up and covered it. They did a fantastic job."
Calaveras is tied for first place in the MLL with Argonaut. The two teams will battle for first placeon Fridaynight at Frank Meyer Field, and Seawell for one is ready for the opportunity.
"We're a tough team," Seawell said. "We love every time we come out to play. We play our butts off every game. We are not always the biggest team on the field, but we love playing more than anything."