Bill Rozak

Fridaynight's homecoming football game between the Wildcats and Cougars was a knock-down, drag-out battle.

Sonora knocked down Weston Ranch with 460 rushing yards and then dragged them out with 55 points in a 55-16 thumping in front of a big crowd at Dunlavy Field.

"We were pretty pumped up coming into this game, we needed a win at home," said Wildcat quarterback Zach Atwood. "It being homecoming helped."

Sonora jumped out to a 41-0 halftime lead and led 55-0 midway through the third quarter before putting away its offense.

"We played awesome, it was a good win for us on homecoming," said Wildcat defensive lineman Colton Fredrickson. "It was awesome playing out here in front of this big crowd. Our energy was through the roof!"

The Wildcat defense set the tone on the opening drive. On third-and-5 from the Cat 39, Sonora defensive end James Mitchell sacked Cougar quarterback Marcus Moore for a 15-yard loss forcing a punt.

Then the Wildcat offense started knocking.

Fullback K. C. Brandsted rushed for 11 yards. Atwood added 11 yards. Ryan Puou went for 10. Brandsted grabbed another 14. Atwood capped the 82-yard, 9-play drive by keeping around left end for a 19-yard score and a 7-0 lead.

After Mitchell's sack ended the Cougar's first drive, Bryce Sanguinetti ended the second with an interception at the Sonora 5.

Will Collamer pounded on a fumble to end Weston Ranch's third attempt.

Steve Lawrence fell on a loose ball to stall the Cougar's fourth drive.

There was no success on the Cougar's fifth attempt either. Carter Denton plucked the pigskin out of the sky for an interception and the Cat's fourth straight turnover.

"Coach (Jed) Malone (defensive coordinator) put together a really good game plan," said Wildcat head coach Bryan Craig. "They (Cougars) run the same offense as Sierra, so we had a little practice a couple of weeks ago, and coming into this game, he had a good plan and the kids executed it perfectly."

And the Wildcats took advantage of their forced turnovers, with points. Lots of points.

Billy Kiriluk plunged in from 2 yards out after the first turnover to make it 13-0 with11:53left in the half.

K.C. Brandsted scored the next touchdown on a 19-yard burst straight up the middle, just two plays after he exploded for a 65 yard gain. He finished with a game-high 155 on 11 carries and now has 789 yards on the season.

Atwood connected with Kade Barajas for a 16-yard aerial strike to make it 28-0 with5:45left.

Puou scored the fifth Wildcat touchdown on a 3-yard run at the3:25mark.

Sonora got the ball back at the Cougar 30 with1:58left in the half and went into its hurry-up offense … which consisted of one play, Atwood finding Puou over the middle for a 30-yard strike. Puou caught the ball for a 10-yard gain and split three defenders on his way to paydirt.

"We executed our plays well and everything was going," said Atwood, who ran for a career-high 143 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. "We got the ball moving. We were fast, we outran them, out hit them, we were tough tonight, we were mentally prepared and everybody is blocking for everybody, it's great."

"We're happy to get the win," said Barajas who rushed for 81 yards aside from his TD reception. "We just came out here hitting and it went good. I think we could've played anybody tonight and won. The scoreboard shows it. We'll go out next week against Lathrop and try do the same thing."

The Wildcats have rushed for a monstrous 877 yards over their last two games and have averaged 9.53 yards per attempt. The all junior offensive line is starting to open some gaping holes, something it did on its way to winning the junior varsity title last year.

"We kept every drive going and didn't really lose the ball," said Wildcat lineman Zerek Saldivar. "And on defense we didn't really let them get anything. We shut them out until the end… I feel like we can go the rest of the year and not lose again."

"Our offensive line, who are all juniors, are coming together," Craig said. "We're making the blocks we need, our running backs are running to the right holes, our quarterback, another junior, is making the reads and it's all starting to click now. This is what we've been preparing to do all season and we actually went out was that team we thought we could be. I didn't think we'd beat them by the score we did because they are a very athletic team, but this is what we've been preparing to do."

If there was any doubt of the outcome, Atwood ended it with a 46-yard touchdown run on the second play of the second half.

Sonora defensive end Tait Mele then came up with the Wildcat's fifth turnover, a fantastic interception. Mele did something he doesn't ordinarily do, cover a receiver. He did it and did it well.

"We asked Tait to cover tonight and that's not something he's used to and he stepped in front of a receiver and made an interception tonight," Craig said. "Defensively, we did really well across the board, but that play Tait made stood out to me."

Wildcat fullback Lane Mierop scored the Cats final touchdown on a 1-yard plunge with6:49left in the third quarter.

The Wildcats (2-5, 2-2 Valley Oak League) next will go for their third straight victoryon Fridayat Lathrop against the Spartans (1-6, 1-3).

"I think we're gonna keep rolling," Atwood said. "We've got Lathrop coming up then Kimball and Oakdale, I think we're getting there. Our offense is getting to where it needs to be. We plan on being great from now on."

Game notes:There were 11 combined 15-yard penalties between the two teams, with Sonora collecting seven. Two were off-setting. … A member of the Weston Ranch coaching staff was ejected, possibly the head coach, according to an official working the game. … Five Cougars were injured and had to be helped off the field, including one by stretcher. …The two touchdown passes by Atwood were the first for a Sonora quarterback this season. …The Wildcat offense was slowed only by penalties, 10 for 115 yards.