The Sonora High School Wildcats outpaced, overpowered and upended the Amador High School Buffaloes 38-7 during their homecoming game at Dunlavy Field on Friday night.
The Wildcats are now unbeaten in their last four games.
Players and coaches lauded the performance of the team during the most highly anticipated community game of the year.
It was not only the high school’s victory, but it was Sonora’s as well, said senior wide receiver and defensive back Bryan Wynne.
“This is for the fans. We gotta do what we gotta do,” he said, surrounded by friends and teammates after the game.
Coach Brian Craig gave credit to the team for earning the victory in the lead up to the final games of the season, and, eventually, playoffs.
“The homecoming game is really for the community and the fans. Beating Amador, that’s a really good team,” he said. “Right now, every game is a playoff game. We don’t look at anything beyond that.”
The mood was electric in Dunlavy Stadium.
The Amador High School Buffaloes were 6-1 going into the game. Coming off a 37-6 victory against Bret Harte High School last Friday, the Buffaloes had only one loss in league play, in a tightly contested match to Calaveras High School 29-27.
Sonora High, by comparison, was 3-4 going into the game, but energized by a three-game winning streak. After beating Argonaut High School 41-7 last week at home, the Wildcats were eager to earn another victory in the Mother Lode League.
Sonora opened the game with an intensity that matched the support of the homecoming crowd. After receiving the kickoff, Amador fumbled the ball within two plays and lost it to the Wildcats on their own 20 yard line.
One minute into the game, senior quarterback Jake Gookin twisted around oncoming defensive players and brought Sonora up in points.
After a successful two-point conversion and 45 seconds of play, Sonora was up 8-0.
The Wildcat defense was essential in thwarting the offensive efforts of the Buffaloes throughout the first quarter and effectively blocked their ability to mount a formidable challenge. But the Buffaloes were able to find some weaknesses in the Wildcat defense, especially on long passes which were effectively retrieved by their receivers.
Offensively, the Wildcat efforts were repaid with a field goal from senior Bryan Wynne to widen their lead to 11-0.
In the opening minutes of the second quarter, the Buffaloes again earned more than 25 yards on a long, down middle throw that eluded the Wildcat secondary. But in an apparent outburst, an Amador player threw a Sonora player down to the ground by the facemask and erased their gain with a penalty.
As in past games, it was the Wildcats’ running game that earned much of their gains. Gookin and sophomore running back Justin Morgan made incredible advances up the field, but with six minutes remaining in the second quarter, it was a long pass to senior CJ Casteman that proved to be Sonora’s salvation.
Castleman was brought down only a few yards from the endzone after a fourth down and long, and Gookin finished it off for a score only moments later.
One play after the kickoff, Wynne intercepted a low and powerful pass from the Amador quarterback on the 20 yard line and ran the ball in for another touchdown. The point after attempt went awry, which held the score at 24-0 for the Wildcats.
The frustration began to show on the Buffaloes, who had a player ejected minutes later.
In the closing minutes of the second quarter, Sonora made slow, attritional developments up field. But again, it was a long pass to Castleman that paved the way to a score.
This time, following a more than 30-yard reception, Castleman ran the ball on the next play for a touchdown.
In the second quarter, runs by Gookin and senior fullback Dalton Tartar edged the Wildcats close to the endzone. Then, a pass interference penalty against the Buffaloes on sophomore wide receiver Gabe Milbourn brought them ever closer to another touchdown.
The Wildcats intended to force a runner through the Amador High School defensive line on a fourth down in the red zone, but to no avail.
Most of the remaining third quarter was dominated by a defensive effort from Sonora High School. Senior linebacker Tristan Hagstrom forced a fourth down with a battering tackle against a running back for the Buffaloes, who were unable to gain a turnover on the next play.
A botched play in the beginning of the fourth quarter resulted in senior Connor Pullen hobbling off the field with assistance from his teammates. When attended to by the team staff, Pullen appeared to grimace when his right ankle was squeezed.
The play also put the Buffaloes in advantageous field position, and following a few plays they earned their first points of the game.
With 10 minutes remaining, the Wildcats held a strong lead of 31-7.
But it was homecoming night, and Sonora couldn’t resist widening their lead. Nick Crockett caught the ball in the backfield of the Buffalo defense, and after dodging two players, ran nearly 50 yards for another touchdown.
It would be the final score.
Sonora High School will face off against Calaveras High School in San Andreas next Friday at 7 p.m.
“We’re feeling good for next week. We’re where we want to be,” Wynne said.