Friday night's highly-anticipated contest between state-ranked rivals California and Blair Oaks had all the makings of a good ole' high school football game; and it didn't disappoint. From the get-go, California's Homecoming game at Riley Field proved anything but dull as the Pintos scored on their first two possessions to pull ahead 10-0, then thwarted a third-quarter rally by the Falcons to ultimately claim a 31-19 victory, California's first against Blair Oaks since 2002.
"I'm proud of our kids," California Head Coach Marty Albertson said. "We played really well and dominated the first half. Other than their interception, it was almost perfect. Then we had a lot of adversity in the third quarter. When Blair Oaks came back and scored another TD and we were at 24-19, we could have folded, but we didn't."
Albertson said a big contributing factor to the Pintos' success thus far is their ability to play as a team. "Nobody cares who is carrying the ball. There's no selfishness or jealousy. The boys are really playing as a team."
Prior to kickoff, the Homecoming coronation was held, in which senior Audrey Imhoff was crowned queen; senior Jacob Kueffer, king; sophomore Abby Strickfaden, princess; and sophomore Jaden Barr, prince.
The Pintos got down to business right out of the gate of the Homecoming game when California's Logan Rowles intercepted Daniel Castillo's pass to end the Falcons' opening drive. The Pintos ensued with a 5-play drive capped by a 29-yard touchdown by Seth Fairchild. Efrain Torres nailed the kick for the extra point, and California led 7-0. The Pintos' next drive was capped with a 20-yard field goal by Torres with 52 seconds left in the first quarter to give California a 10-0 edge.
Fairchild scored on another run, a 4-yard TD, with 3:58 left in the first half. After Torres' point after, the Pintos led 17-0.
The Falcons caught a break when Hayden Haney intercepted a Pinto pass that left the Falcons to start their drive at California's 11-yard line. It was capped with a 5-yard TD by Ashton Maasen. The kick for the extra point failed, and Blair Oaks trailed 17-6 with 33 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
The Pintos countered with a 2-play drive that consisted of a 17-yard run by Anthony Price, followed by a 36-yard touchdown pass from Jaden Barr to Jonathan Goans. After Torres' PAT, California led 24-6 going into the half.
The Falcons' first possession of the third quarter was a 47-yard drive topped off with a 1-yard TD by Derek Otto. After the 2-point run failed, Blair Oaks trailed 24-12 with 7:41 left in the third quarter.
The Pintos answered with a 9-play drive that resulted in a fumble recovered by the Falcons. Blair Oaks went on to capitalize on the turnover via a 1-yard TD by quarterback Daniel Castillo. After Chris Cooper's kick for the extra point, the Falcons trailed 24-19 with 1:34 remaining in the third quarter.
Despite 10 penalties California unfortunately racked up in the second half (Blair Oaks had three in the second half), the Pintos charged on.
California also got the opportunity to take advantage of a turnover when a Castillo fumble was recovered by California's Seth Fullks at the Falcons' 20-yard line. Six plays later, Dylan Albertson ran in a 4-yard touchdown. After Torres scored the PAT, California led 31-19 with 3:40 left to play.
The Pintos weren't ready to call it a night though. As the Falcons ensued with their final possession of the night, Castillo was sacked for an 8-yard loss by Goans and Fairchild. Seven plays later, the Falcons were knocking on the door at California's 15-yard line when Castillo's pass was intercepted by Albertson with 1:11 remaining, to end the Falcons' last opportunity to score.
The Pintos ended up with 56 carries for 255 yards and Barr completed 3 of 4 passes for 70 yards. The Falcons had 27 carries for 87 yards and Castillo completed 8 of 21 passes for 68 yards.
Price led California rushing with 14 carries for 104 yards. Fairchild followed with 15 carries for 86 yards. Jerry Lutz had 13 carries for 28 yards. Garret Baquet had 3 carries for 17 yards and Barr had six for 12 yards.
Goans had one reception for 36 yards and Jason Wolverton had two for 34 yard.
Lutz led Pinto tackles with three solos and nine assists. Albertson had three solos, four assists and two interceptions. Nathan Squires had two solos and five assists. Fulks had two solos, four assists and a fumble recovery and Rowles had two solos, four assists and one interception.
California (6-0, 4-0), ranked 10th in Class 3, will host Osage at 7 p.m. Friday at Riley Field.
"Osage has a great quarterback and a couple of good receivers," Albertson said. "Probably as good as we'll see all year. They have firepower. But they've given up a lot of points, so hopefully we'll score on them. I feel pretty good about it."
The Parade of Champions featuring the Pinto football players will begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday is also Senior Night for the Pintos, in which the senior football players and their parents will be recognized via a special ceremony prior to kickoff, beginning at 6:30 p.m.