SONORA – The Calaveras High School football team didn’t just lose to the Sonora Wildcats; they were embarrassed.
In a contest that had major Mother Lode League title implications, Calaveras got dominated in all three phases of the game. With so much on the line, only one team showed up ready to fight and it wasn’t the squad from San Andreas.
Calaveras’ first-year head coach Doug Clark didn’t sugarcoat how he felt the evening went following Calaveras’ 35-7 loss to the Wildcats Friday night at Dunlavy field.
“This was a butt-kicking,” Clark said while standing outside Calaveras’ locker room. “We did not show up to play tonight.”
Calaveras entered the night with more wins than Sonora and had just knocked off previously unbeaten Amador 17-10. Calaveras had won four straight and felt this was the year to be the first team to hand Sonora a Mother Lode League defeat.
Unfortunately for Calaveras, Sonora had other plans.
“I knew that Sonora played tough,” Calaveras senior lineman Tristan Wilson said. “I don’t know if they were trying to prove a point, but they are 32-0 in league for a reason.”
During Calaveras’ four-game winning streak, the bright spot has been the play of its defense. Not only was Calaveras holding teams to 9.25 points per game, but it also limited the big plays. The 35 points Sonora scored was the most Calaveras has surrendered all year and Calaveras gave up touchdowns of 45, 40, 36 and 15 yards.
“Routine plays that we’ve made all year long on defense, weren’t made tonight,” Clark said. “We were in the right spot and we weren’t making the stops.”
Heading into Friday’s game, Calaveras was averaging nearly 230 yards per game on the ground on 42 carries. Sonora limited Calaveras’ rushing attack to only 156 yards on 30 carries and 52 of those yards came on one play. Blocking Sonora’s defensive line was an issue for Calaveras all night.
“It was rough,” Wilson said. “They had a couple of fast guys. But overall, not blocking is what killed us tonight.”
The lack of blocking from the offensive line proved detrimental on the opening drive of the game. Calaveras moved the ball into Sonora territory and a rare pass play was called. Senior quarterback Nolan Dart faked a handoff and looked down the field. Sonora’s defense bit on the fake and senior tight end Zeke Martinez was all alone inside the Wildcat red zone with not a green jersey around him for 10 yards. Right as Dart unloaded the pass to Martinez, an unblocked linebacker hit him from behind and the ball popped into the air and hit the turf only a few yards away from the line of scrimmage.
Calaveras ended up turning the ball over on downs. Even though Dart was unable to hit Martinez for a sure touchdown, the senior quarterback doesn’t feel that one missed opportunity would have made much of a difference in the long run.
“It was just as big as any other play,” Dart said. “Obviously had we scored, we would have had six more points, but that wouldn't have changed the game at that point.”
On a night where Sonora put up 35 points, the first 12 minutes ended in a 0-0 tie. The Wildcats changed that less than three minutes into the second quarter, when they scored on a 2-yard run to take a 7-0 lead.
Offensively, Calaveras had two three-and-out series and three punts in the second quarter. While Calaveras had no offensive rhythm, the Wildcats found theirs. Sonora scored on a 45-yard run and a 40-yard pass to end the first half with a 20-0 lead.
“We were a little pissed and we knew that we needed to fix something and that just didn’t happen,” Dart said of the mood with the team at halftime.
Wilson added, “Seeing the score just pissed us off a little more, but I think a lot of guys just put their heads down early in the game.”
Sonora began the third quarter with a drive that took nearly six minutes off the clock and was capped with a 36-yard touchdown run. Following a successful 2-point conversion, Sonora led 28-0.
Calaveras’ one bright spot on offense came with 5:16 left in the third quarter, as junior running back Clayton Moore busted through the Sonora defense and didn’t stop running until he crossed the goal line 52 yards later.
“I saw a wide-open hole,” said Moore, who led Calaveras with 99 yards rushing on 14 carries. “It was just off from there and I wasn’t concerned about getting caught.”
Following the touchdown run from Moore, Calaveras hoped some momentum shifted to its side of the field. The defensive unit made a big stop on fourth-and-1 from the Calaveras 3-yard line, but Sonora’s drive that ended short of the end zone, chewed up nearly eight minutes of clock. Aside from the goal line stop on fourth down, Calaveras’ defense had trouble making the big play when the time called for it.
“We didn’t execute,” junior linebacker Donivan Giangregorio said. “We didn’t shed blocks on defense and we got our butts kicked.”
Sonora added its final touchdown late in the fourth quarter to put the game away for good.
Sonora outgained Calaveras on offense 363-207 and ran 15 more plays. The Wildcats threw for 118 yards and rushed for 245, while Calaveras totaled 51 yards through the air and 156 on the ground.
“We needed to execute in all aspects and that’s just not what we did,” Dart said.
Even with Friday’s loss, Calaveras is still in the running for the Mother Lode League title. Should Calaveras beat Argonaut and Bret Harte to finish the season, and Amador beats Sonora next week, Calaveras is guaranteed at least a share of the title.
No coach or player wants to rely on another team to help them out and for Giangregorio, he hopes that next year, Calaveras won’t need another squad to knock off the Wildcats.
“This just means that we have to get them next year,” he said.