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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Kevin LabotkaCalen Kruger runs for his second touchdown Aug. 28 in the first half of California’s 61-21 win over Clinton.

CLINTON, Mo. — The California Pintos football team started its season off in a convincing way Aug. 28 as it defeated the Clinton Cardinals 61-21.

Head coach Derek Scroggins said the win is validation for the hard work the team has put in since the end of last year's season.

"They have been working nine months for this and this is the pay off," Scroggins said. "It was good to see. We were able to roll up 61 points on (Clinton) and two of those touchdowns were with our JV kids in and (Clinton) never took their varsity off, so we look at that as a shutout regardless. I am real proud of our kids. I thought that our kids handled themselves well and played hard, and they got what they deserve."

Calen Kruger scored the first touchdown of the new season for the Pintos with a four-yard run to give California a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter. The Pintos scored again quickly as the defense forced a punt, and on the return, Izac Currens took the ball 51 yards to the end zone to make it a 14-0 game with just over eight minutes left in the quarter.

Then, California forced a turnover on downs at the Clinton 38 yard line after a stop on fourth down. California struck again quickly as Kruger ran for his second touchdown of the half on a 31-yard run to make it 21-0 with 5:47 to play in the first quarter.

After forcing another point, the Pintos marched down the field and finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run by Enoch Dunnaway to make it 27-0. During the extra point attempt, the ball was botched on the snap, but the Pintos were able to recover the ball and ended up scoring two points as Mike DeCosta caught the ball in the end zone to make it a 29-0 lead with 1:16 left in the quarter.

It took a little bit longer to score in the next period, but the second quarter was much of the same. On a fourth down for Clinton on California's 40 yard line, a pass to the eight yard line was intercepted by California's Kaden Bax. The Pintos then ran the ball five straight times to get to near the Cardinals' 30 yard line. Kruger launched a deep ball to the right sideline that was caught by Trevor Myers near the one yard line. After being backed up to the Cardinals' five yard line, Kruger scrambled left and found Drake Schlup open in the middle of the end zone to score the Pintos' first passing touchdown of the season as California increased its lead to 35-0 with 4:38 left in the first half.

Schlup also had a touchdown on the ground, as he ran for a 15 yard score to give California a commanding 41-0 lead right before halftime.

Even with the big lead, Scroggins said the team was told to play like it was still 0-0.

"Really, it is stay focused and play like it is 0-0. Honestly, I was not worried — our kids never let their foot off the gas," Scroggins said. "They fought to the end."

Early in the third quarter, Kruger contributed his fourth touchdown of the game as he ran for a 30-yard score to make it 48-0 early in the quarter. Then it was the defense who got involved in the scoring, as Garrett Burger scored on a pick six to make it 54-0 with more than eight minutes to play in the quarter.

The score would stay the same until the Pintos scored again to make it 61-0 with less than 10 minutes to go in the game. The Cardinals finally got on the scoreboard after that with their first touchdown to make it 61-7 with 7:42 left in the game. The Cardinals would score two more touchdowns in the final minutes, but by then, the win was firmly in the Pintos' hands.

With the way the team played in all phases of the game, it showed that the team came prepared, Scroggins said.

"I have been touting the quality of my staff since I got here and I believe we have only improved it by adding three new coaches. The other eight guys have done a tremendous job of getting the kids ready, and the proof is in the pudding there," Scroggins said.

The 61-point performance against the Cardinals marks the first time the Pintos have scored more than 40 points in a game since the 2015-16 season. The last time the Pintos eclipsed 60 points was a season earlier in 2014-15, when they defeated Southern Boone 63-6 on Halloween.

California's next game is at 7 p.m. Sept. 4 and is once again on the road, as the Pintos face the Fulton Hornets (0-1). The Hornets are coming off a 63-36 loss to Osage.

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