Sonora Wildcats faithful had another bright spot to cherish momentarily in the second quarter Friday night when Wildcats running back Elijah MacDonald forced his way over the Escalon goal line to score in the west end zone at Engel Field, making it Cougars 14, Sonora 6.
Sonora players pumped their fists and clapped their hands, and Wildcats supporters hollered and cheered and rang their cowbells, but the point-after attempt was no good. As the second quarter progressed, Escalon scored two more touchdowns to make the score 28-6 at halftime, allowing the Escalon Cougars band to unleash their slow version of Gary Glitter’s 1972 hit single “Rock and Roll.”
Another bright moment came late in the fourth quarter when Sonora back Owen Bauer returned an Escalon kickoff to the Sonora 27 yard line. A player on Escalon’s defensive line got called for encroachment. It was 2nd and short when Bauer carried a pitch sweep left for a first down near the 50-yard-line.
Sonora back Hunter Foust followed up with a carry into the Escalon secondary with under 2 minutes to play, for 1st and-10 at the Escalon 30. Wildcats back Aiden Kostlivy carried the ball twice to pick up another first down inside the Escalon 10-yard-line, and Sonora fullback Joshua Fernandez carried in for another Sonora score, making it 35-13 with 37 seconds left.
Two key Wildcats, defensive backs Joziah Bradford and Justin Morgan, went off injured Friday night. Sonora head coach Bryan Craig said after the game he expected updates on Bradford and Morgan on Saturday.
“We messed up some things tonight,” Sonora quarterback Nick Crockett said immediately after the game. “We’re still trying to figure out where we want to put people. We’ll come back Monday and practice hard.”
Crockett carried the ball multiple times Friday night as he ran his team’s option offense, taking numerous hits in the process. He said it’s “an adrenaline rush” to carry the ball for his teammates, and he emphasized that everyone on the team was fighting hard.
Kostlivy said after the game he and his teammates break huddles on the word “family” for a reason.
“These past couple weeks we weren’t playing as a family,” Kostlivy said. “Sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t matter. Tonight we played more like a family.”
Both Crockett and Kostlivy said their injured teammates, Bradford and Morgan, were key players Friday night before they had to be helped off the field.
Craig said the efforts of Bradford and Morgan weren’t in vain Friday night in spite of the score, because he saw some improvements in his team’s play against Escalon.
“We did some good things tonight,” Craig said. “We didn’t finish well enough -- we only put it in the end zone twice -- but we moved the ball a lot, up and down the field. And we didn’t give up the big plays. We cut down on our turnovers but the one we did have, the fumble at the end of the first half was very costly.”
Craig said he was proud of his team’s effort in part because “against a team like Escalon, we made them earn everything.”
Escalon quarterback Ty Harris had multiple chances to complete passes into the Sonora secondary. Cougars running backs Luke Anderson and Kaden Christensen broke free for gains on occasion. Anderson scored the first Escalon touchdown and Christiansen scored the next.
After MacDonald’s touchdown for Sonora, Wildcat cheerleaders erupted into their chant “Pump, pump, pump it up, pump that Wildcat spirit up! Pump it up and keep it up! Keep it up and pump it up! Go Wildcats!”
Harris passed to Escalon receiver Kaidence Trejo for a touchdown, making it 21-6 with the point after, and the smell of manure from nearby cattle ranches became more obvious in the Sonora stands.
“That was a bolt!” a man in the Sonora stands remarked. “What a throw.”
There were only 33 seconds left in the half and Escalon still managed to score again, following a Wildcats fumble and an Anderson carry for short yardage into the east end zone as time expired in the first half.
Sonora intercepted Harris once early in the second half and played Escalon even through the third quarter, which ended with Escalon leading 28-6. Many Wildcats players held up four fingers and hollered at the start of the fourth quarter.
Wildcats supporters shouted “Defense! Defense!” as Harris passed deep into the Sonora secondary and two defenders broke the pass up. “Come on defense!” a woman hollered.
With under 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter Sonora’s offense took over near their own 20-yard line and began moving the ball with Crockett running the option and carrying for several yards a pop.
“Plenty of time, let’s go!” a man shouted in support of Sonora. Crockett unleashed a pass good for 20 yards to the 50-yard-line.
Crockett carried up the middle again as the clock crept to under eight minutes left in the game. Fernandez carried up the middle again to make it 3rd and 5. A pitch to running back Foust gained inches or less, and Crockett pass was incomplete on fourth down.
Escalon took over at their own 45-yard-line. The Cougars moved the ball into Sonora territory with under five minutes left and Wildcats defensive back Joziah Bradford, one of Sonora’s busiest tacklers all night, came up injured and had to be helped off the field.
Then with 3:34 left, Harris passed deep to Trejo for another touchdown, making it 35-6 with the point-after.
“Come on, the game’s not over!” a man yelled in the Sonora stands.
Earlier in the game, Sonora made mistakes on penalties, and Escalon made plenty of mistakes of their own. Sonora’s second-quarter touchdown drive was aided by multiple roughing-the-passer and encroachment penalties.
Contact Guy McCarthy at email@example.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.