MODESTO – The Calaveras High School football players and coaches could finally, at long last, smile after a game. It had been since early November, 2018 since Calaveras walked off the field as victors. Well, not only did Calaveras leave the field with its first win of the season, but that victory was a 42-8 blowout of the Modesto Christian Crusaders.
Following the win, Calaveras head coach Doug Clark told his players to enjoy what they accomplished, but come Monday afternoon, it’s time to get back to business as powerhouse Ripon (3-0) is next on the schedule.
“This is a great win and we should enjoy it, but we have to come back ready to work and work very hard next week,” Clark said. “We’ve got an opponent in Ripon who is just as capable as an Escalon or Hilmar, who is a team that we could potentially see in the playoffs. We saw one last week in Escalon and we are going to see one next week in Ripon.”
There wasn’t much for any Calaveras coach, player or fan to complain about at the conclusion of Friday night’s contest. Calaveras dominated Modesto Christian in all three phases of the game, which allowed all players to get significant playing time.
“One of the greatest feelings you can have as a coach is when everyone on your roster gets in, contributes and does something special,” Clark said. “I thought that everyone on the roster did exactly that tonight.”
Calaveras (1-1) scored on its first four possessions of the first half. The first score of the evening came when senior quarterback Nolan Dart connected with senior Jonny Lozano for a 55-yard touchdown pass. But the play wasn’t executed the way it was drawn up.
Dart took the snap and rolled to his right, but quickly had a red jersey in his face. He tried to juke the defender and as a result, the defender got a handful of facemask. Staying on his feet, Dart appeared as if he was going to scramble, but at the last moment, delivered a strike to Lozano, who made one defender miss on his way into the end zone.
“I thought that I was going to have to run it because I was under pressure, but as I was tucking it, I looked up and saw that I wasn’t past the line yet and threw Jonny the ball and it turned out really well,” Dart said.
Modesto Christian (0-3) responded with a strong drive that went all the way to the Calaveras 5-yard line. On fourth-and-three, Dart broke up a pass for a turnover on downs and the score remained 7-0 with 46 seconds left in the first quarter.
Calaveras moved the ball on the ground with an 11-yard run from sophomore Jake Hopper and a 19-yard carry from Lozano. Calaveras’ drive continued into Modesto Christian territory, but appeared to stall and following a holding penalty, the offense was looking at a third-and-22 on the 27. Dart dropped back to pass and with a defender in his face, threw a perfect ball to junior Jake Black who made the catch in front of a Modesto Christian defensive back.
“I had to adjust to the ball a little bit and all I kept thinking was, ‘Catch the ball, catch the ball,’” Black said of his 27-yard touchdown catch that capped a 95-yard drive and gave Calaveras a 14-0 lead with 7:16 to play in the first half. “It was a good throw by Dart.”
Calaveras quickly got the ball back as Modesto Christian fumbled on its first play following the Black touchdown reception. Junior running back Clayton Moore broke free for a 31-yard scamper and was taken down at the Crusader's 1-yard line. The following play, Moore reached the end zone for his first touchdown of the year.
Moore scored once more in the first half as he punched it in from 8-yards out to give Calaveras a 28-0 lead. Moore finished the night with 125 yards and two scores on 13 carries.
“I felt pretty good running the ball tonight,” Moore said. “I think I could have made a few different moves to keep runs going, but my boys down in the trench and my lead blocker Jake Hopper really played well.”
After scoring 28 in the first half, Calaveras began the third quarter by putting together a 50-yard drive that was capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Lozano. Lozano helped the drive by breaking free for a 20-yard run. As a team, Calaveras had 12 rushes that went over 10 yards and Black knows that as a receiver, he can help spring a run for more yards with strong downfield blocking.
“We are a sweep-first team and blocking for that is key,” Black said. “You have to get your guy and do your job and it pays off when you have someone like Clayton (Moore) who runs for over 100 yards. That’s where you get your pay.”
Calaveras forced its second turnover of the game late in the third quarter as junior Phoenix Nguyen picked off a Modesto Christian pass and after a 15-yard facemask penalty, gave Calaveras possession on its own 45. Following the interception, junior Ronnie Garcia broke free for a 49-yard run and one play later, scored from two yards out for Calaveras final score of the night.
“We fixed the mistakes we made against Escalon and things were clicking better tonight and hopefully we’ll get better next week,” Dart said of Calaveras’ offensive production.
Offensively, Calaveras rushed for 306 yards on 38 attempts for an average of 8.05 yards per carry. Defensively, Calaveras held Modesto Christian to only one-yard rushing on 14 tries. Dominic Giangregorio, Caleb Bennett and Zeke Martinez recorded sacks and Michael Seely recovered a fumble. Senior kicker Andrew Celli was a perfect 6 for 6 on PATs.
“We played, what I consider to be a well-rounded game,” Clark said. “We didn’t turn the ball over and we had very few penalties. We moved the ball and had some big plays. It was a very sound game.”