Friday Night Lights

November 23, 2008

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Friday Night Lights

Everybody loves the underdog, who doesn't get an adrenline rush at the end of Hoosiers and Remember the Titans.  When you get into championship high school sports, the playoffs, there seems to be a group of schools and leagues that year in and year out compete for the Section/State Title. In Division V football in Central California the teams from the Greater Modesto Area have dominated the Section for the past armful of years.  Particularly Central Catholic and Escalon High Schools.  There are both the one constant. 

The Mother Lode League running along Hwy 49 from Sutter Creek in the North to Tuolumne City in the South, with right turn in the middle to Linden, is the smaller third league in this division.  Often the representatives of the MLL are overmatched when they have to face the Valley Teams in the Section playoffs.  In 2004, Argonaut rode a waive of first round upsets to the Section Title.

2008 looked to be a bleak playoff season for the MLL, the league did not fare well against the power house teams from the TVL and WAC in preseason contests.  On paper it looked like the 3 MLL teams would make a quick appearance, get manhandled and go home.  It is what happens frequently in the playoffs to the MLL representatives and this year looked the same.

The Calaveras Redskins earned a trip to Escalon for their second place finish in league.  Escalon had used Calaveras as playoff punching bag too many times to be counted.  On paper, this game appeared headed down the same road.  Escalon rolled through the tough TVL and finished the season with a perfect 10-0 record.  Calaveras hobbled to a 7-3 record.  This game should be nothing more than a dress rehearsal for a round two game with WAC powerhouse, Central Catholic for Escalon.

Escalon was a physically superior team, larger, faster and experienced.  The Redskins would have to execute and get some breaks to stay in the game.  And sometimes isn't it funny how the ball bounces and how Mr. Momentum can work for an underdog.

The Redskins converted two fumble recoveries into touchdowns.  When a late first half drive ended in a Redskin field goal, Calaveras had a 17-0 lead.  Escalon showed why they were 10-0 and displayed their ability to score quickly. The Cougars responded with a quick touchdown drive to end the first half.  The fear is that Calaveras came out used some early momentum and broke out to a quick lead, the emotion and momentum dies off and Escalon takes over the game and beats you into the ground.

That is exactly how the second half started, Escalon scored 3 touchdowns and was on their way to a fourth touchdown to put the game out reach, when the Redskins forced and recovered another fumble at mid field.  The Redskins, down by 11 points, then gave the game to the guys that it meant the most to, the Seniors.  Calaveras pounded the ball into the Cougar line with Seniors Steve Klith and Jake Mote to drive up the field and narrow the gap to 5 points. The Redskins held the Cougars on their next possession and the season would come down to one final drive an opportunity to knock off a giant.

Again relying heavily on Klith and Mote the Redskins began their final drive. All game long the Redskins passing game had missed.  However, on a key 3rd down play, Nick Batrip dropped back and hit Klith on 30 yard line to pick up a key first down. They want back to Klith and Mote to get the ball to the 12 yard line with time disappearing on the clock.  Escalon held for three downs. The Redskins were down to a fourth and eight from the 10 yard line. Calaveras ran an option around the right end, as Batrip got corralled in around the five yard line, he makes a last second pitch to Mote, who bowled over three Escalon defenders for the go ahead touchdown. A roar erupted from the Redskin sidelines and stands that hasn't been heard in many years. 

Unfortunately, 50 seconds remained on the clock.  Which would be enough time for Escalon to show why they are Escalon.  An 80 yard touch down pass with 12 seconds left on the clock wiped out the Redskin bid for an upset and ended their season.  However, as bitter as the loss will taste for those boys and coaches, they did the one thing that you always want to leave the field with accomplishing, they left everything they had on that field.  For the seniors they will always remember Friday night, for the underclassmen they will build on this for the coming years.


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