The California High School football team kicked off its 2021-22 season with a victory at St. James Friday night.
The Pintos defeated the St. James Tigers by a score of 24-6. The win marked not only a good start to a new season — it also marked head coach Seth Womack's first win with CHS.
The Pintos came out of the starting gate slow on offense, but their defense and special teams made a huge impact. California managed to turn it around in a big way after senior running back Tyler Patterson took a hand-off from quarterback Calen Kruger and ran it all the way to the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown. After the extra point by senior kicker Adolfo Osio split the uprights, the Pintos took an early 7-0 lead, which would end up being the halftime score.
During the halftime huddle, coach Womack was satisfied with keeping St. James scoreless, but he wasn't satisfied with the lack of aggression on offense after the touchdown possession. California's coaching staff explained to their players how important it was for them to get the first score of the second half to give themselves the breathing room that they needed.
Little did they know that the Pintos would burst out of the starting gate in the second half in resounding fashion. On their first possession of the second half, the Pintos marched down the field for a quick first down, but ran into trouble when they were facing a fourth-and-two on their own 46-yard line. Then, senior running back Enoch Dunnaway took the hand-off and ran the ball not just for a first down but for a touchdown of 54 yards to give the Pintos that first score of the second half that they were looking for.
One minute and eight seconds later, the Pintos were in the end zone again. On the first play of the Tigers' next possession, the Pintos caused a turnover when senior Kaden Bax intercepted a pass from the Tigers' sophomore quarterback, Cooper Harlan. Two plays later, Kruger completed a 59-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Trevor Myers to put California ahead 21-0.
The Pintos hit a bump in the road when they gave up a 44-yard touchdown run, but California never looked back from there and fought with the Tigers to a standstill for the rest of the second half. The game ended with a 24-6 Pintos victory, capped off with an interception from sophomore Cameron Combs in the final minute. California recorded 450 total yards of offense, while holding St. James to 247 total yards. Kruger threw 16 of 38 for 207 yards on Friday night, and Patterson was the leading rusher with 125 yards.
"Give a ton of credit to our defense tonight because we didn't play at the level that we wanted to play at in the first half," Womack said following his first win with the Pintos. "But we got that killer instinct that we needed, and we'll gladly take the win. But we still have a lot of work left to do. We'll learn from tonight and get ready for Fulton next Friday."
The Pintos will look to go two-for-two early in the season when they host the Fulton High School Hornets Friday at 7 p.m. The Hornets are coming off a week one defeat at the hands of the Osage High School Indians 24-19. California is 2-0 against Fulton all time, and will look to make it 3-0 on Friday at home.