While the Pintos might've been slow in finding their rhythm Friday night at Mexico, by the second half they had re-grouped and ultimately went on to dominate the field and finish with a 42-14 win.
"Mexico is a much-improved team," California Head Coach Marty Albertson said. "They gave us some problems in the first half. We were a little flat and it showed. But we made some adjustments at halftime and our kids stayed the course. I'm proud of how we came out in the second half and shut their defense out and scored 21 more points."
The Bulldogs opened with an 11-play, 55-yard drive that came up empty, however, California's opening possession was over in three plays when a pass from Jaden Barr pass was picked off by Mexico quarterback Tyler Bracht that resulted in a 34-yard TD with 7:30 left in the first quarter. Cole Jaramillo's kick for the extra point failed, and Mexico led 6-0.
The Pintos answered with a 3-play drive capped with a 31-yard touchdown by Dylan Albertson. Aaron Cuevas nailed the PAT and California led 7-6 with 6:08 remaining in the first quarter.
The Bulldog's first possession of the second quarter was cut short when Barr intercepted Bracht's pass, leaving the Pintos to start their drive at their own 20-yard line. Four plays later Albertson ran in a 4-yard TD. After Cuevas' point after, the Pintos led 14-6 with 9:57 left in the second quarter.
Mexico's next drive saw three costly penalties for the Pintos, including one that negated an interception by Barr and ultimately helped the Bulldogs, who went on to score via a 26-yard TD pass from Bracht to Skylar Harrington at the 8:12 mark. Jamel Taylor ran in the two-point conversion to even the score at 14-14.
The Pintos countered with an 8-play, 66-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown by Luke Burger. After Cuevas' PAT, California led 21-14 with 4:56 left in the second quarter.
It appeared the Bulldogs' might score on their final possession of the first half as Mexico achieved four first downs and ended up at California's 1-yard line with 43 seconds left to play. But a 5-yard penalty, followed by a tackle for a 4-yard loss by Nathan Squires, had moved the Bulldogs back to California's 10-yard line with 11 seconds on the clock. Taylor gained one yard on the next play, then, with just three seconds left, Bracht tucked the ball and ran from the 9-yard line. California's Luke Burger took Bracht down at the 2-yard line to end the Bulldogs' chance for one more TD before the half.
The Pintos opened the third quarter with a short drive capped with a 38-yard TD pass from Barr to Jerry Lutz. Cuevas scored the point after and California led 28-14 at the 8:54 mark.
The Pintos added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The first was a 3-yard TD by Albertson with 7:46 left to play. Cuevas nailed the PAT and California led 35-14.
Mexico's ensuing drive ended in two plays when California's Luke Burger intercepted a Bracht pass. Five plays later, Allan Burger scored a 5-yard TD with 4:52 remaining. After Cuevas' extra point, the Pintos led 42-14.
"This game tested us a little, but it will do us some good," Albertson said. "I think now our kids understand we've got to play our best every game, no matter who we're playing."
The Pintos had 317 rushing yards from 38 carries, and Barr completed 2 of 3 passes for 45 yards.
Walker Borghardt led California rushing with 11 carries for 115 yards. Seth Fairchild followed with six carries for 93 yards, and Albertson had eight carries for 57 yards, including three TDs.
The Bulldogs had 173 rushing yards and 72 passing.
Albertson led California tackles with 13. Fairchild, Scott Porter and Lutz each had 11 tackles. Dustin Forsythe and Squires each had seven.
California will play at Eldon at 7 p.m. Friday.
"Eldon finished on a winning-streak last season," Albertson said. "They will be the best team we've played so far this season. They're good enough that we will have to rise to the occasion and play our best game."