The new members of the Vintage High Athletic Hall of Fame introduced at halftime Friday night included Jim Lanterman, who has coached wrestling at the school for 35 years.

Fittingly, as the Crushers took on Davis in their football home opener at Memorial Stadium, six of the grapplers Lanterman’s helped coach showed how the toughness needed to last six minutes on the mat can help one play four spirited quarters on the gridiron.

Vintage needed that to pull out a 15-13 victory over the explosive Blue Devils and improve to 2-0 on the season.

The six Crushers who play football and wrestle are all starters on the gridiron – quarterbacks-defensive backs Isaiah Garcia and Michael Webber and top running back-linebacker James Robert on both sides of the ball, and Jesse Chaidez, Sam Carter and Demetrio Martin on defense.

Leach said last year he loves having wrestlers on the football team, and he reiterated that after Friday’s game.

“That’s the identity we want to create, the environment we want to bring here – to be tougher than the other team,” he said. “We know year in and year out we will be the least athletic team on the field every single time, but we also understand these kids are tough and strong and blue collar. They bring their lunchpails to work. We pride ourselves on winning in the second half. That’s the attitude I brought here and I grew up with, and I’ll never change that.”

Garcia led the way, rushing for 113 yards on 13 carries with a 3-yard touchdown in the second quarter that – along with an Abdeil Ballines PAT – put the Crushers ahead to stay, 9-7.

On a windy night, Vintage opened the second half with a drive that ended Ballines missing a 38-yard field goal to the left. But the Crushers’ defense, with Martin up front, got the ball right back with a three-and-out. Vintage took over at the Davis 47 and Robert capped a nine-play drive with a 7-yard touchdown run, breaking tackles like he was getting escapes on the mat. A bad hold or snap led to the holder getting tackled on the conversion try, keeping the score 15-7.

The Crushers got the ball back with another three-and-out, this time taking over at the Blue Devils’ 33 due to of a Davis personal foul on the punt. Just when it looked as if Vintage might put the game away, however, the wrestlers seemed to be gassing.

Robert fumbled into the hands of Davis at the 11. Three plays later, Webber deflected a long pass by Blue Devils sophomore quarterback Payne Barksdale straight up into the air. Just when it appeared 6-foot-4 wide receiver Kayden Hoal would come up with the pass intended for him, it bounced back up and Webber came down with it.

Despite his fumble, Robert got the ball on the next play and picked up 8 yards. But Webber – who shared quarterback duties with Garcia, throwing four of Vintage’s five passes – gave it back with a deep ball that was intercepted.

Davis was still unable to get a second-half first down, however, and Robert carried four times for 44 yards to get the Crushers into the Davis red zone once again.

Robert finished with 91 yards on 13 totes.

“He’s a tough kid, a great wrestler, a hard-nosed kid. He’s strong, he’s fast,” Leach said. “He fumbled the one time, but we went right back to him to give him that confidence. Those things happen once in a while. You don’t like it but it happens. He’s still a tough kid who runs hard.”

Penalties pushed the Crushers back, however, and Webber eventually threw incomplete on fourth down with 3:21 left.

That was enough time for Barksdale to get off his own back, having thrown for just 81 yards, and give his team a chance to force overtime. He completed 4 of 7 tosses for 64 yards to set up a 5-yard touchdown run by fellow sophomore Taylor Vaughn with 51.6 seconds left.

Robert batted down Barksdale’s two-point conversion pass in the end zone, however, and Vintage was able to run out the clock.

“We had a very bad week of practice, very lackadaisical with our preparation, and it showed tonight,” Leach said. “We got what we deserved – a close game when we felt it shouldn’t have been that close. But all the credit goes to Davis. They played well and they had a great scheme coming in. They throw the ball and run the ball really well. They spread you out and try to sneak up in there. I thought we played it well.”

Garcia said Vintage came in with a focus to contain Vaughn, who finished with only 61 yards on 13 carries.

“Our goal all week was to stop No. 34,” he said. “We did that and held them to 13 points.”

But Hoal and 6-foot-5 tight end Will Smith seemed just as lethal with their height advantage over the Crushers’ defensive backs. Smith had a 16-yard catch, but that was it.

“You just re-route him, try to get him off his game and get an extra guy over him and don’t let him catch anything,” Garcia explained. “He’s one of those big-time players who, when he gets the ball, is going to do something with it, so we had to shut him down.”

Vintage took a 2-0 lead late in the first quarter after Martin sacked Barksdale and Carter hurried him into a third-down incompletion. The snap from the Davis 8 sailed over the punter’s head and out the back of the end zone for a safety.

But Barksdale – who finished 9 of 16 passing for 145 yards – gave his team a 7-2 lead with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Hoal, who caught it at the 10 and muscled his way into the end zone.

“The coaches knew this was going to be a tough game, but for some reason in our heads we were a little too laid-back in practice,” Garcia said. “But we came to play Friday night. That’s all that matters. We’re a tough team, a very tough team.”

Practice still matters, Leach said.

“This game hasn’t changed in 100-some years – it’s blocking, tackling, running, so we’ve got to get back to the fundamentals at practice,” the coach said.

The Crushers could really get tested next Friday when they visit Woodcreek (1-2), a Roseville program that’s beaten Vintage the last three years and routed Davis 55-34 two weeks ago.

Vintage JV 14, Davis 6

Mo Castro scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown and Thomas Rogerson returned an interception 15 yards for another score as the Crushers won their season opener. Joey Russo kicked the extra points for Vintage, which had its scheduled opener canceled the previous week due to extreme heat conditions.


Andy Wilcox is a sportswriter-photographer for the Napa Valley Register. He's had similar roles in Walnut Creek, Grass Valley, Auburn, Tracy and Patterson. He grew up in Ohio. His wife, Laura, is a pastry chef. He also enjoys playing guitar and piano.