The Vintage High football team was like a boxer landing heavy body blows that sent American Canyon to the canvas.
While the Wolves fought back enough to make the Crushers blink, the early damage was too much to overcome as Vintage prevailed 27-14 Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
With the win, the Crushers are 5-2 overall and 3-0 in Vine Valley Athletic League and in a position to win their first league title since in 2005.
The Wolves, meanwhile, head into their bye week at 3-5 overall and 3-1 in VVAL. American Canyon will need to win out and get help to win its seventh league title in a row, having won Solano County Athletic Conference titles the last six years. They next visit Casa Grande on Oct. 19.
“We have to get healthy over the bye week first,” American Canyon head coach John Montante said. “Playing against a good team like Vintage, making a playoff run, if you do things sloppy, which we did at times, you get exposed. There are times we played like a good football team. There were times that it’s evident that we are still learning how to be a good football team.”
Vintage, overpowering the Wolves on the offensive and defensive lines, led 20-0 early in the third quarter thanks to three Viliami Schaumkel touchdown runs. The Crushers rushed for 248 yards, with Schaumkel amassing 126 on 21 carries.
The Crushers had a chance to make their lead swell even larger, but Kekoa Wilson and Derrick Conner recovered two fumbles deep in American Canyon territory to keep the Wolves in the contest.
“Give American Canyon credit. They came back and played tough up front,” Vintage head coach Dylan Leach said. “We were facing a 10-man box and it was like, ‘Let’s see who we are.’ They played up to a high level. They should be proud of how tough those guys played. We were physical up front. We were disciplined and got it done early. That helped us throughout the ball game.”
The Wolves got on the board with 7:03 left in the game when quarterback Vance Eschenburg scored on a 3-yard run. Eschenburg connected with Antonio Perez on a 32-yard touchdown pass, with Eddie Byrdsong running in the two-point conversion to make it 20-14 with 2:30 left.
American Canyon’s Brandon Seay intercepted a pass at the Wolves’ 20 to give his team one last hope, but Vintage’s Jakob Bittner sealed the game with a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown to close the deal.
Though the Wolves fell short, Montante was proud that they bounced back after getting floored in the early going.
“We always talk about resilience,” he said. “The kids showed it. At halftime they had every reason to walk away and say, ‘Next week.’ They didn’t. They looked at each other and fought for each other. I’m proud of them.”
Defensively, the Crushers frustrated American Canyon in allowing just 185 yards on 43 plays. The Wolves’ normally potent ground game produced just 75 yards.
“Our motto is to make a team one dimensional and make them pass, especially this team that runs the ball so well,” Leach said. “We got them into passing situations and had three (pass-interference penalties). I thought we played well against the run. I don’t know what 32 and 6’s stats were, but they weren’t like they normally are.”
Leach was referring to Eschenburg and Byrdsong, who combined for 29 yards on 20 carries. Eschenburg was 4 of 13 passing for 113 yards, with Seay making two catches for 62 yards.
On defense for American Canyon, Wilson had two tackles for losses and Derrick Conner and Ronald Hamilton each had one. Conner and Wilson each had three impact tackles, and Alec Hoover and Hamilton each added two.
Vintage JV 50, American Canyon 6
American Canyon’s score came from quarterback Vinnie Espejo on a 97-yard run. That run represented more than half of the Wolves’ 191 total yards.
Defensively for the Wolves, Drake Hundley and Johnathan Yasol each recovered a fumble. Alijah King, Phil Sacro, Cameron Lee and Roman Webb each had a tackle for loss. Tobyn Bunch, Ezekiel Anderson, Webb, King and Hundley each added an impact tackle.