The Sonora Wildcats came hungry into Jackson to take on the Argonaut Mustangs and they dominated all game, leading 14-3 at halftime and 27-3 deep in the 4th quarter.
Wildcats junior back Riley Paz, number 22, scored another touchdown for Sonora with 2:19 left in the game to make the final score Sonora 34 Argonaut 3. The Argonaut band struck up a low-key somber dirge to support their team anyway.
Argonaut fans in the north hillside stands were loud, vocal and spirited all night, cheering for their team and riding the refs at times when calls went against the Mustangs.
The Wildcats earned their first touchdown of the night when number 26 Hunter Foust, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior back, carried a toss left into the end zone with 39 seconds left in the first quarter. Sonora supporters and the traveling Sonora High Golden Regiment Band went crazy in the south stands.
Senior quarterback Nick Crockett and senior back Elijah MacDonald were workhorse ball carriers on the drive for that first score. Junior back Owen Bauer, number 3, carried a sweep left side at one point and there was a flag on the play against Sonora and somebody yelled “C’mon ref let’em play!”
On Sonora’s second scoring drive, Crockett, MacDonald and senior back Aiden Kostlivy, number 2, alternated on yardage-gaining runs to get it down inside the Mustangs 10-yard-line. Crockett carries off right tackle and right side again, then from the 1-yard-line a Sonora ball carrier put the ball on the ground and it appeared a Sonora player fell on the loose ball in the end zone.
Black-and-white uniformed game officials discussed the play and signalled a touchdown.
“Hey ref are you from Sonora!?!” somebody hollered long and loud from the Argonaut stands.
Junior kicker Andre King, number 80 for the Mustangs, converted a field goal chance with seconds left in the first half to make it 14-3 Sonora over Argonaut. The Argonaut band broke into their version of Chicago’s 1970 horn-heavy top 40 hit “25 or 6 to 4.”
Interviewed at halftime in a rest area near the west end zone, referees said it appeared the Sonora ball carrier on the Wildcats second touchdown fell on his own fumble in the end zone.
With 11:16 left in the third quarter, Crockett passed to number 80, Gabe Milbourn, a 6-foot-6 230-pound junior, for another Wildcats score.
With 7:21 left in the third quarter, Sonora’s Bauer tossed his helmet in frustration and refs called a dead-ball unsportsmanlike conduct on the play. Bauer retrieved his helmet and walked off the field. That moved the ball to the Sonora 35-yard-line but the Wildcats held, preventing any score for Argonaut, and got the ball back.
Milbourn plays end on defense and he intercepted a Mustangs pass with 11:34 left in the 4th quarter. A few plays later, Crockett connected on a pass play with Milbourn again, who carried the ball in to score, making it 27-3 Sonora over Argonaut. The extra-point kick attempt was blocked by Argonaut Joe Woodruff.
“Feels amazing, my first touchdown for varsity,” Paz said, elated after the game. “I give it up to the linemen, they led the way and did the hard work. And it’s always great to start off league with a win.”
The Wildcats band conductors made tight dance moves back-and-forth in close unison with straight faces as they led their peers in a rowdy rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” and the varsity team grinned, hooted and hollered. Crockett made a selfie with some family members and then turned to slap one hand on his helmet in the other.
“It feels great and it’s confidence booster after all those hard, tough teams we played earlier this year,” Crockett said. “We need to stay focused though for the hard teams we come up on next, Bret Harte and Amador and the rest.”
Asked how it feels to be 30-0 in the Mother Lode League, Bryan Craig, the Wildcats head coach smiled briefly, said, “It is nice to be 30 and 0 but right now it’s great to be 1-0 in the league this season. We’re taking them one at a time.”
Asked what Sonora did differently this game and how they built on last week’s win over West High School in Sonora, Craig said his team excelled at basic tackle football, getting off the line as a unit on both sides of the ball, hitting their assignments, and they didn’t turn the ball over. Sonora had three interceptions, including one by senior back Hunter Brewer, and a fumble recovery, by Milbourn.
“We executed and we got the take-aways,” Craig said. “We played very good defensively.”
Before Friday night’s game, the Wildcats were undefeated five years in a row in the Mother Lode League, with a 29-0 league record since joining the Mother Lode League. They are now 2-4 overall this season.
Their next matchup is 7 p.m. Oct. 11 at home when Bret Harte comes to Sonora for Sonora’s homecoming. Argonaut is next scheduled to play the same time and date at Summerville High School in Tuolumne.
Contact Guy McCarthy at email@example.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.