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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Kevin LabotkaCalen Kruger fights through Osage’s defense to get to the end zone Sept. 18 during the Pintos’ win over Osage. Kruger played a strong game for the Pintos, contributing a pair of rushing scores and throwing three touchdown passes.

The California Pintos football team (3-1) got back in the win column with a commanding 43-13 win Sept. 18 over the Osage Indians (2-2) at the Homecoming game.

California's defense got off to a good start on Osage's first possession of the game, as the Pintos recovered a fumble at the Indians' 47-yard line. While the Pintos were not able to score on their following possession, the defense forced another takeaway on the Indians' second possession — an interception by Kaden Bax — to give California the ball right back. This time, the Pintos were able to capitalize as quarterback Calen Kruger kept the ball for a nine-yard touchdown run to score the first points of the game. After converting their two-point conversion attempt, the Pintos led 8-0 with 2:36 left in the first quarter.

Head coach Derek Scroggins said the Pintos defense was ready for Osage.

"Coach (Justin) Plug did a great job getting the defense ready, showing them what to expect," Scroggins said. "Our kids executed. Like I said earlier in the week, I thought it was going to come down to execution, and we were able to do it.

Early in the second quarter, the Pintos recovered another Osage fumble, this time at midfield. The Pintos got the ball to inside the Indians' 30-yard line, then Kruger hit Dawson Gump for a long pass to Osage's three-yard line. Kruger scored his second touchdown of the game, running the ball in for a three-yard touchdown to give California a 16-o lead, following another successful two-point attempt, with 11:13 left in the second quarter.

Osage looked to gain some momentum as the team took the following kickoff to the Pintos' 34-yard line, but on fourth down at the Pintos 16-yard line, California forced another fumble, and it was recovered by Garrett Burger. California marched down the field on a drive that was finished off by a six-yard touchdown run by Tagen Higgins to make it 22-0 with 5:12 left in the first half. In the final minutes of the first half, Osage was able to get in the red zone again, but the Pintos' defense held strong on a goal line stand as it forced a turnover on downs, stopping Osage at the two-yard line. The Pintos went into halftime up 22-0.

In the third quarter, the Pintos' defense continued to hold Osage scoreless and Kruger threw his first passing touchdown of the game, finding Dawson Gump over the middle of the field for a 29-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-o with 6:13 left in the quarter. The score stayed that way until the fourth quarter, when California scored again after the Pintos' defense forced their second interception of the game. Kruger then threw his second touchdown of the game on a 14-yard touchdown pass — the ball was deflected into the hands of Drake Schlup for the score, as everything was going California's way to make it 36-0 with 8:26 left in the game.

Scroggins said he felt that Kruger had a good game for the Pintos.

"He came in and played lights outs," Scroggins said. "I thought he had a real good game. As a junior, that just grows his confidence, and the team rallied around him and so good things happened."

Osage almost took the following kickoff for a touchdown, but California was able to stop the return at the Pintos' 16-yard line. The Indians finally got on the board to make it 36-7 with 7:22 left in the game. California answered back quickly, as Kruger threw his third touchdown pass of the game, this time on a 21-yard pass to Trevor Myers over the middle of the field to make it 43-7 with 6:38 left in the game. Osage scored their second touchdown of the game with 1:59 left in the game before California ran out the clock to secure the win, giving the game its final score of 43-13.

The Pintos' varsity lineup was able to completely shut out Osage's varsity side — Osage only scored once the backups came in for California.

"The fact that our varsity shut out their varsity, and they didn't score until we got our backups in, I think that speaks volumes," Scroggins said. "They definitely have a high-powered offense if you look the previous few week scores. We knew that they were going to be able to make some things happen, and as they got closer to the goal line, our defense just tightened the screws a little bit and was able take care of stuff."

Scroggins said the Pintos took a big step forward with the win, but the team can still get better.

"What we learned is what we are capable of," Scroggins said. "I don't think we have reached our potential, and we've got to keep getting better on a daily basis and weekly basis, and we make sure that we take that next step next week."

The Pintos' next game is at 7 p.m. Sept. 25 at Boonville (2-2). Boonville is coming off a 51-7 loss to Blair Oaks.

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