Skins top Cats in defensive struggle

Written by Bill Rozak September 22, 2013 11:00 pm

Maggie Beck / Union Democrat. Calaveras senior Mike Seawell (34) and Derek Rittenhouse (69) celebrate Seawell's second quarter touchdown on Friday at Frank Meyer Field.
Forget all the talk about a rivalry, what happened on the gridiron Friday night at Frank Meyer Field speaks for itself.

Calaveras beat Sonora.

After the final seconds ticked off the clock in a defensive struggle, the Redskin players celebrated and hugged and their fans cheered wildly. And moments after the teams shook hands, Calaveras head coach Jason Weatherby received a Gatorade shower from his Redskins.

“It felt good. It felt really good,” Weatherby said. “It’s kind of bittersweet though because I always root for them when they play anybody else. But by the same token, I really wanted to beat them.”

Redskin Mike Seawell scored one touchdown, set up another and had a team-high 68 rushing yards to lead Calaveras to a 13-7 victory.

“Sonora has a bunch of studs on defense,” said Seawell, who also had one catch for 16 yards. “You just gotta pound and go as quickly as you can through the hole. They are good tacklers so that when you try to make a move they will get you. So you gotta just keep running hard.”

Seawell got the Redskins on the board first midway through the second quarter. From 3rd-and-goal from the Sonora 4, the speedy star senior took a handoff on a misdirection sweep and hid the ball behind his body.

“That’s kind of a sucker play,” Seawell said. “We fake one look and I saw the cornerback bite. After that he showed a little hesitation and with that I was able to get around the edge and score.”

The touchdown completed a 13-play, 85-yard drive to put the Skins up 7-0 with 7:08 left in the first half.

Seawell and Calaveras cashed in again a few minutes later after taking advantage of a Sonora fumble on the Wildcat 32.

On 3rd-and-8 from the Cat 30, Redskin quarterback Justyn Thornburg hit Seawell and a crossing route for a 16-yard gain. A play later, Seawell rushed 7 yards to the Wildcat 1.

Thornburg scored on a sneak on the next play and the Redskins took a 13-0 lead into halftime after a 2-point conversion pass failed.

Sonora in the first half had one sustained drive, its first, that lasted eight plays, but ended in a fumble. In the opening 24 minutes, the Wildcats fumbled four times losing two.

In the second half, the Wildcats played with more intensity, especially on defense, but still the Redskin defense held strong.

Calaveras was driving on its opening possession of the second half and faced a third-and-8 from the Sonora 34. But Wildcat senior Tait Mele stalled the drive with a sack.

The score remained the same until early in the fourth quarter when the Wildcats finally broke through.

Sonora fullback K.C. Brandsted carried five times for 25 yards and quarterback Andrew Nessi completed the 10-play, 50-yard drive with a 1-yard sneak. Sonora was back in the game at 13-7 with 9:21 left.

Brandsted carried the load for Sonora with 110 yards on 21 carries, which marks the third straight game over the century mark to start the season.

“He’s a very hard runner and we knew that from the beginning, but he really did show himself tonight,” said Redskin Danny Gilmore of Brandsted.

“He (Brandsted) had a good game,” said Redskin defensive end Emmett Barrett. “Just like we had a good offensive line up front, they did, too. They handed him the ball on the dive and he was running real hard.”

After the Wildcats forced a punt with 6:10 left, it looked like they were ready to punch it in again.

Sonora started on its own 25 and gained a steady diet of yards, with Nessi rushing for 21 to set up first down at the Redskin 28. Sonora reached the Calaveras 18, but for the 16th time in three games, the Cats fumbled, losing their 10th.

The Redskins (2-1) ran out the final 3:04.

“We came in here and made an honest mistake of underestimating them,” said Wildcat senior and co-captain Steve Lawrence. “Looking at their film, we got too confident. We came out and got hit in the face and realized, darn, we gotta get going. In the second half, we played our hearts out, but they were playing their hearts out too. It was one of those things where it was a stalemate. They’re a great team and I respect them for it.”

The Wildcats out-gained the Redskins 209-182 with Sonora rushing for 209 yards on 42 attempts and Calaveras gaining 150 on 45 totes. Sonora had gained 644 yards in its first two games (322 average) but couldn’t find that success against Calaveras.

“They played outstanding,” said Redskin defensive coordinator Doug Clark of his unit. “This is the fourth year in a row that we have played Sonora and I have been waiting for a team to stay disciplined, do what we have done all week in practice, and good things will happen … and they did.”

“We practiced their leads and option all week,” said Gilmore. “We set up a good scout team that practiced very hard against us. We practiced like animals and played like animals.” 

“We came here expecting to win and that clearly did not happen,” said Wildcat lineman Brandon Phelan. “We didn’t have a lot of energy and we didn’t get off the ball. They came out here wanting this more than us. Now, we’ve gotta let it burn. We’ve gotta work hard. We’ve gotta soul search and find something in us to pull out and get a win.”

Redskin running backs Gilmore and Connor Hamilton had 45 and 44 yards, on 12 and 11 carries, respectively, with most of the damage in the first half on the two touchdown drives.

“The offensive line was the reason we won the game,” said Hamilton. “They couldn’t have blocked any better. They were able to open up holes for us. On defense, I thought we played great. With how good Sonora is, I don’t think we could have played them any better.

The Wildcats (0-3) now prepare for its final season in the Valley Oak League, before moving to the Mother Lode League in 2014, beginning with on Friday at Manteca.

“We played terrible, plain and simple,” said Wildcat head coach Bryan Craig. “It’s the same story though (fumbles). I’ve been saying it for awhile, but we’re gonna go to the drawing board and make some changes. There has to be. We can’t play much worse than we did tonight, so there’s nowhere to go but up for us. We’ve gotta tough league to get ready for. We’ve got Manteca coming up and they are loaded. We’ve got a lot of talent on this team and we as coaches thought we had them ready to go but obviously we didn’t. So we’ll get togetherSaturday morning and talk about getting things fixed.

“But Calaveras had an outstanding effort tonight. They came out and were hungry and their hearts were full and big. They were well-coached. I can’t say enough about how they did to prepare for us.”

The Redskins will head into Friday’s clash at Rio Americano with a full head of steam.

“The seniors haven’t beaten Sonora since our 8th grade year,” Gilmore said. “This game was very important and definitely a confidence booster but we can’t let this win go to our heads. We have to keep practicing hard.”

And Weatherby, who had never beaten Sonora, will likely put his Redskins through rigorous practices this week. But his smile after the game on Friday night probably won’t wear off too soon.

“I’m so happy for Weatherby,” said Seawell. “He’s a great coach and I love the man.”

Guy Dossi contributed to this article.