AMERICAN CANYON — As the full moon rose over the hills that backdrop Wolf Den Stadium, an assistant coach on the American Canyon sideline went one step further to set the scene.
“Friday the 13th and we got a full moon?” he said to no one in particular. “It was meant for the Wolves tonight.”
It certainly was.
At that point, the Wolves had scored 20 unanswered points and were well on their way to a 29-6 win over Wood High that sealed a perfect 4-0 nonleague stretch, their best start since they won 11 games in 2016.
They’ll open Vine Valley Athletic League play at Petaluma (1-3) next Friday as one of the league’s two undefeated teams. Justin-Siena, which beat Archbishop Riordan 43-31 on Friday, is the other.
While this is the best start the Wolves have had in years, and a win was a nice way to end their nonleague slate, head coach John Montante wasn’t entirely satisfied with his team’s performance.
American Canyon was penalized nine times for 110 yards and lost the ball four times via fumble.
“We play in bursts,” Montante said. “We played some really good series in there, we had some really good looks, and then the brains went off and we got complacent and we got stupid. We have to fix that. The good thing is, now the kids are saying that. So that’s a good sign.”
American Canyon got more standout performances from Ezekiel Anderson, Vance Eschenburg and Kaave Giavola to lead the way on Friday night.
Anderson made his presence felt early, scoring the last two of the Wolves’ three first-quarter touchdowns on runs of 67 and 11 yards. Gaviola had the first score of the night when he went 83 yards on the hosts’ second possession.
Gaviola finished with 98 yards on three carries with the score, while Anderson had 101 yards on the ground with his two scores on 10 carries.
“Zeke is young and has a lot of talent,” Montante said about his junior running back. “He’s got a lot of good football he has yet to tap into. He’s a worker, a good kid. He’s a piece that anyone would want to have in their program.”
The Wolves led 20-6 at halftime, extended that to 22-6 with a safety, and then got one last touchdown on a 43-yard dime that Eschenburg placed perfectly into the arms of Justin Del Rosario in the closing minutes of the third quarter.
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Eschenburg was 6 of 11 passing for 137 yards with the one touchdown, and connected with Del Rosario three times for 72 yards.
Aside from their four fumbles and numerous penalties, the Wolves made light work of the Wildcats’ defense, racking up 396 yards of offense. But they were maybe more impressive on the other side of the ball. Wood (1-3) moved backward more than forward in the first half and didn’t break into positive yards on offensive until late in second quarter, when a 13-play scoring drive made it 20-6 just before the half.
Out of their 132 yards of total offense for the game, the Wildcats gained 92 in the second half, mostly against American Canyon’s bench.
But the sloppiness and penalties still bugged Montante. He thought his team took its foot off the pedal after had built its early lead.
“Our guys got satisfied and if they want to go where they say they want to go, they cannot be satisfied,” Montante said. “Can’t do it.”
This season has obviously gotten off to a better start for the Wolves than last, when they were 0-4 heading into league play. Montante clearly sees his team’s improvement, and welcomes it. But nights like Friday help him remind the Wolves that the season is a marathon, not a sprint.
“At this point last year, you could make the argument that the roof was caving in on people,” he said. “But last year the guys stayed the course and we had a positive result. This year, we have to avoid complacency and stay hungry and keep working and be focused and keep these guys humble.”
Some on the Wolves’ players see this as well. When the team huddled up postgame, it wasn’t Montante who spoke. Several American Canyon veterans did, and addressed the exact things their head coach wanted to hear.
The bottom line: what they’ve done so far means nothing come next Friday.
“We play in spurts and we have to fix that,” Montante said, “because there is good football in our league and 4-0 doesn’t mean anything now because now everybody is 0-0.”
American Canyon JV 20, Wood 7
Kapono Liu rushed for 120 yards with two touchdowns, Roman Webb scored on a 30-yard run, Croix Stewart converted three field goals, and Kaleb Anderson and Stewart eac h had an interception for the Wolves (4-0).