UPPER LAKE — After taking a step back at Woodside Priory in its season opener a week before, the Calistoga High football team left no doubt at Upper Lake on Friday night.
The Wildcats scored 30 points in the opening frame and defeated the Cougars 64-29 in Lake County.
Sophomore quarterback Christian Caldera once again put up Madden video game-like stats, combining for 326 yards of total offense and contributing on nine total touchdowns.
“I feel like today was the right way to start,” he said. “Last week we didn’t even put up 30 in the whole game and to come in and put up 30 in the first quarter felt really good. Last week opened up all our eyes for this week. We knew what needed to get done and we got it done this week.”
Yuli Caballero opened Calistoga’s first drive with a 40-yard run and Caldera took a keeper into the end zone from 10 yards out on the next play to put the Wildcats up 6-0. They came up short on the two-point conversion, as they would on all but two of their 10 touchdowns on the night.
With Upper Lake’s offensive line having issues with constant pressure from the Wildcats’ defense, the Cougars were forced to punt. But Caldera came unblocked around the left side of the line and blocked the kick. Back on offense, he needed only two plays to find the end zone again, this time on a 5-yard keeper that put the Wildcats up 12-0.
Upper Lake was gaining some offensive momentum on its second drive, until a Kellen Smith fumble was snapped up by Calistoga linebacker Fernando Rios and the senior returned its 25 yards for an 18-0 lead.
Two minutes later, the Wildcats had their fourth touchdown in less than five minutes as Caldera connected with Issac Garcia on a 25-yard pass down the right side of the field.
The first-quarter scoring didn’t stop there, as Caballero blocked a punt on the next Cougars drive and Caldera grabbed the football for a quick 15-yard touchdown return and 30-0 lead.
“The 30 points in the first quarter is definitely an indication of what we can do and what we are capable of,” Calistoga head coach Jim Klaczak said. “That we didn’t make a lot of extra points was a bummer because when we start playing really good teams, the kicking game is going to be so important.”
Caldera wasn’t available for the Wildcats’ first drive of the second half for the Wildcats and the Cougars took advantage, sacking Caballero in the end zone for a safety. The Cougars scored on their following drive when Smith found an open wide receiver down the left side of the field for the score and Benat Love mashed in the extra point to make it 30-9.
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Calistoga had an answer whenever the Cougars gained any momentum, though. Caldera found freshman Garcia wide open for a 49-yard touchdown strike and, finally with a successful two-point conversion, the Wildcats went into the halftime break with a 38-9 advantage.
Calistoga picked up some solid play from first-time football player Reuben Duenas, as the senior lineman was a standout on the defensive line.
After the teams exchanged drives that gained little yardage, the Cougars opened the second-half scoring with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Smith to top wide receiver JT Thiesson.
A high snap on the Wildcats’ ensuing punt forced Caldera to kick rugby style from the end zone, and the ball went only went 8 yards, but he avoided another safety. Caldera then glided around would-be tacklers and powered his way for a 44-yard touchdown run on the first play of the drive. He also made the two-point-conversion for a 46-9 lead.
“If I was an NFL owner, I wouldn’t have enough money to pay him,” Klaczak said of Caldera. “He is special, and there is no two ways about it. He is starting to get the other guys to play up to his level and that is what we really need.”
The Wildcats once again put massive pressure on the punter, resulting in a short kick, and Caldera scored on a 6-yard run. The Cougars’ Gage Goode scored from 20 yards outs to fend off a running clock. But Caldera continued to add to his growing list of highlight runs, dancing around the backfield like Michael Vick, evading the whole Upper Lake squad, and taking a broken play 65 yards for the touchdown. The multi-sport athlete ended the game with 239 rushing yards on 23 carries, with six touchdowns on the ground.
“It’s a little weird, you know, putting up that stat line,” Caldera said. “It shows that the work I put in during the summer is paying off. I just got to do what I got to do to help my team win, and that’s what I had to do today.”
A running clock was started in the fourth quarter and helped to avoid a three-plus-hour contest.
Calistoga returns to the peninsula next week to square off with Pinewood-Los Altos Hills on Friday night.
“I feel like the whole team picked it up since our loss last week,” Garcia said. “I hope we do even better next week.”