The Vintage High football team delivered a steady diet of body blows, with a side order of explosive plays, on the way to a 34-12 triumph over American Canyon at Memorial Stadium on Friday night.
The Wolves made the Vine Valley Athletic League contest interesting in the fourth quarter before the Crushers (3-3, 2-1 VVAL) pulled away for a decisive win. The Crushers were never in danger of losing, but the game was close enough that the outcome did not feel definitively decided until the final three minutes.
Unmistakably apparent was how Vintage had its way controlling the line of scrimmage. The offensive line of Louie Canepa, Preston Gullum, Steve Downing, Aaron Gilmet, Owen Trethewey and tight end Nate Materne paved the way for 465 yards rushing — and total offense, as the Crushers did not complete a pass. Running back Dylan Smith carried 29 times for 232 yards and touchdown runs of 29 and 66 yards. Tytan Bradley carried four times for 122 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown.
“That’s a tough team,” Crushers head coach Dylan Leach said of American Canyon. “Those guys play really hard. They came to battle. I appreciate that out of them. I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage. We faced nine, 10 guys in the box and still did what we were able to execute and accomplish good runs in the end.”
Vintage led 15-0 after one quarter and the contest stayed that way into halftime. In the third quarter, the Crushers went on a 14-play, 68-yard drive that had consumed 10:17 when Elias Alvarez finished it with a 1-yard quarterback sneak. The two-point conversion failed, leaving Vintage — which scored two first-quarter touchdowns — ahead 21-0.
American Canyon, which struggled to find consistent footing on offense, mounted a comeback with Kapono Liu scoring on a 2-yard run and throwing a 4-yard touchdown pass to James Aken. With both two-point conversions failing, the Crushers’ lead was 21-12 with 6:30 left in the contest.
Liu, who entered the game having run roughshod over opponents was limited to 72 yards on 18 carries. Though quarterback Kaleb Anderson’s passing numbers were not stellar, the junior completing 8-of-20 for 71 yards, he managed to move the chains on occasion with his arm and legs. He had 58 yards on 11 carries.
“We threw the ball better,” American Canyon head coach John Montante said. “We started to capitalize on some open receivers. That really helped. Our receivers are talented, but raw. Kaleb is getting better every week. We have to be more consistent in our pass protection, but we are getting much better in that area.”
Just when American Canyon (4-3, 2-1 VVAL) made the game compelling, the Crushers delivered two haymakers — Brodie Jacque’s 39-yard touchdown run and Smith’s 66-yard scoring jaunt. Leach agreed with the assertion that 4-yard runs in the first quarter are wins for the offense if it stays patient with the running game.
“At the start of the game we were getting 4 or 5 yards,” Leach said. “Then the end came and we broke a few long ones.”
Vintage limited the Wolves to 208 yards of total offense on 55 plays. The Crushers also held American Canyon’s normally vaunted running game to 133 yards on 34 carries.
“They ran it down our throat until we realized that we had to match their intensity,” Leach said. “Once we did, you saw that the tide turned. We encourage teams to do that against us. They had some good runs in the beginning.”
For Vintage, Riley Anderson had a sack and Diego Davis added a tackle for loss. Materne led the team with four impact tackles (gains resulting in 1-3 yards), while Davis had three and Joey Reyes two. Canepa and Anderson each had one.
For the Wolves, Ray Vaughn had three tackles for losses and Ryan Landaverde had two. David Garcia, Sean Yumang and Aken each added one. Liu and Tobyn Bunch each had two impact tackles, and Garcia, Aken, Anderson and Landavere added one apiece. Aken also had a sack. Kamel Jones Jr. and Vaughn each recovered a fumble.
“We want to see assignment retention and continued improvement on tackling, getting off the ball, playing a full series,” Montante said. “It’s about reading your keys and having your eyes on formation recognition. Our guys played well in spurts, but you can’t do that against good football teams.”
As far as the big picture is concerned within the VVAL, Casa Grande (4-2, 2-0 VVAL) remains the leader in the clubhouse after a 49-13 drubbing of Sonoma Valley. Vintage visits Justin-Siena, which defeated Napa 14-7, next week in a battle between second-place teams. American Canyon, which is also in second place, has a bye next week.
The Crushers will be temporary Wolves fans when American Canyon visits Casa Grande on Oct. 22, but primarily wants to finish the season with authority.
“The dream is for us to put together a full week,” Leach said. “If we put together a full week of disciplined practice and execution, then we will have a good end of the season. That’s the plan and we haven’t been able to do that yet. Once we decide to put together a full week, I think we'll be in good shape.”
The Wolves have a week off to figure out how they can create VVAL chaos against a Gauchos team that throws more passes than a Tom Cruise movie in a nightclub.
“You have to contend with their receivers,” Montante said. “You have to rush the quarterback and keep the pass rush lanes. You have to hit him as often as possible. Your offense has to keep the momentum going to keep them off the field. They have a good thing going there. We have to play our game.”
Vintage won the JV game, 44-25.