California taking a step up in competition

Will face Mexico

CALIFORNIA — After defeating Boonville 44-0 in their opener Friday at Riley Field, the Pintos are ready for game two of the 2014 season tonight, when they will host the Mexico Bulldogs.

“This will be a tougher game for us than Boonville was,” California head coach Marty Albertson said. “Mexico is better than Boonville. They have size and speed in the backfield.”

Looking back at California’s 42-14 win against Mexico last season, Albertson said, “The first half was pretty tough. It was really hot, and I think we finally just wore them out.”

Albertson added, “They run our old offense. Their former quarterback is playing wingback, so he’ll be running the ball. Their fullback is big at 190 pounds. Like I said, I think this will be a tougher game.”

The Bulldogs are coming off of a 35-12 win against North Callaway last week in their opener.

“We played well in the first half,” Mexico head coach Steve Haag said. “The heat hadn’t gotten to us yet. In the second half, they made some adjustments that we didn’t adjust to well, and the heat started to affect us. Overall though, our first game went well.”

Regarding California’s win against Boonville last week, Albertson said, “We started off slow, especially on offense in the first half. Naturally for the first game that happens, but we made adjustments and got our running game going, then we played much more efficiently. You have to feel good about 300 rushing yards and 170 passing. That’s pretty good. And I was extremely happy with our defense. They hardly gave up anything.”

The Bulldogs are expecting a tough test from the Pintos.

“California has had a strong program over the years,” Haag said. “This game will be more physical and it will be a great test for us. Coach Albertson has done a good job of bringing the Pintos back to what they were in the late ’90s and 2000.”

This is Haag’s first year as head coach for the Bulldogs, though he has coached football for 12 of his 15 years at Mexico.

“We have more of a running-type offense this year,” Haag said. “We’re keeping it on the ground.”

Haag said key players include junior quarterback Spencer Thomas and junior fullback Karsten Ekern.

“Karsten is one of our mainstays on offense,” he said. “Tyler Bracht (senior) is a good leader for us on offense and defense. He’s a big leader on defense, playing strong safety.”

Haag said junior running back D’Milo Nunnelly has good speed and power on offense.

“He’s a good runner who isn’t afraid of contact,” he said. “Wide receiver Skylar Harrington has good speed and he’s a good blocker. Running back Cole Jaramillo does a good job of blocking on offense and he covers passes for us at cornerback on defense.”

Albertson is optimistic about where the Pintos are at this point.

“We’re healthy, and overall I’ve been pleased with everyone’s efforts so far,” he said.

Senior quarterback Jaden Barr led rushing in the Pintos’ opener Friday with nine carries for 147 yards and two touchdowns, and junior running back AJ Kendrick had 14 carries for 72 yards and one TD. Senior running backs Allan Burger and Dylan Norton, and senior wide receiver Drew Norton each had an interception.

Kickoff for today’s contest between California and Mexico will be at 7 p.m. at the new Riley Stadium.

“We look forward to playing at California’s new facility. They have a very supportive football culture,” Haag said. “We also look forward to seeing what we can do at California.”

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