ANTIOCH — The American Canyon High football team went to Deer Valley for its season opener Friday night and came away with a convincing 40-8 win, thanks in large part to strong performances from Vance Eschenburg and Ezekiel Anderson.
The first scoring play of the night came courtesy of Anderson, a linebacker and running back who intercepted a ball batted by fellow junior Ronald Hamilton for a touchdown with 5:32 remaining in the first quarter.
The Wolves put 40 unanswered points on the board before Deer Valley was able to respond.
Eschenburg, a senior quarterback, showed his ability with both his arm and legs. He had a pair of first-down scrambles during a second-quarter scoring drive that was capped off by a 6-yard touchdown run from senior wideout Kaave Gaviola and gave the Wolves a 13-0 lead with 7:10 left in the first half.
Eschenburg threw an interception at the 3:54 mark, but bounced back with a touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Jordan Fisher with only 21 seconds left to give American Canyon a 19-0 halftime lead.
Wolves head coach John Montante elected to attempt an onside kick to open the second half.
“Their head coach has a good reputation,” Montante said of that decision. “They’re a physical team. We wanted to make sure we kept the momentum on our side. Once they get momentum rolling, it can be like an avalanche, so we wanted to make sure it stayed on our side.”
The attempt failed, giving Deer Valley excellent field position at its own 46-yard line. But the Wolves’ defense stepped up and forced the Wolverines three-and-out on the drive.
The momentum ended up staying on American Canyon’s side thanks to a touchdown drive highlighted by a 32-yard run from Eschenburg, a 38-yard completion to senior running back Kekoa Wilson, and a 10-yard touchdown scamper by senior wide receiver Justin Del Rosario. That gave the Wolves a 26-0 lead with 7:42 remaining in the third quarter and kept Deer Valley on the ropes.
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After the defense stifled the Wolverines’ offense again, Eschenburg finished off yet another scoring drive by running for a 10-yard touchdown with 25 seconds left in the third quarter to put the Wolves ahead 33-0.
Anderson punctuated the game with a 72-yard run, the longest play of the evening. His touchdown came with 4:24 remaining in the game and gave American Canyon a 40-0 advantage.
A strong kickoff return gave Deer Valley excellent field position at the Wolves’ 32-yard line. The Wolverines took advantage, eventually scoring on a 22-yard pass from senior quarterback Pacifica Tumanuvao to junior wideout Reggie Hill with 1:23 left.
The Wolves’ 40-8 victory was in stark contrast to their previous season opener, a 36-21 home loss to Deer Valley.
“Having an entire offseason is helpful,” said Montante, who was hired in mid-summer last year. “We started sloppy (tonight) but in the end, we took care of business.”
Montante said his team has the potential for a promising season, as it attempts to win its seventh league title in eight years. Last year, they finished just short of that goal in the first year of the Vine Valley Athletic League with a second-place finish.
“We’ve got the ability to be pretty good,” he said. “We just have to do our jobs on every play and be disciplined when we get tired and just keep playing.”
Next week the Wolves host St. Patrick-St. Vincent, a 46-27 loser at St. Helena on Friday night.