TOMALES — The Calistoga High football team’s postgame locker room was somber Friday evening, as the Wildcats had just been handed their second straight blowout defeat.
A 46-8 North Central League III blasting by a hungry Tomales squad had taken its toll.
The west wall of the girls locker room shook from the thumping bass of the homecoming dance and victory celebration happen in the adjacent gym, and the music continued for the reminder of the Wildcats time on campus.
Calistoga head coach Jim Klaczak reminded his young players of the ups and downs of the season. Some Wildcats were emotional to the point of tears. Others just stared into the lockers in front of them. Klaczak pulled an emotional freshman aside and ended the conversation with a massive hug.
Calistoga (5-3, 1-2 NCL III), which last week fell 36-13 to undefeated co-leader Branson, was now tied for fourth place with Tomales (4-3, 1-2 NCL III) behind Rincon Valley Christian, which plays co-leader Stuart Hall on Saturday.
“After last week, we just didn’t bounce back,” Klaczak said. “We are too young and too inexperienced to bounce back from that. That was a rude awakening for them last week and this week is just a good football team. We just didn’t adjust quickly enough.
“For a young team, that whole thing about ‘experience is the best teacher,’ it gives the test first and the lesson afterward. So hopefully we keep learning and keep getting a little bit better. They see now what it takes to not just be a winner, but be a champion. Not disappointed in their effort, they always play hard. The execution is just not there yet. It gets muddled when you play good teams.”
Tomales came out strong with its wing-T offense, gaining more than 8 yards on four of its first five carries. Brady Woodward was the workhorse for the Braves, as the 6-foot-2, 215-pound quarterback was a load to tackle. The senior finished with a game-high 108 rushing yards on 20 carries.
Woodward finished off the first drive with a keeper up the middle from 1 yard out, and also ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
The Calistoga offense was never really able to find its rhythm. On the second play of the Wildcats’ first drive, Christian Caldera threw up a deep pass that was intercepted by Chris Bernal. It only took the hosts six plays to find the end zone again, as Bernal took a counter around the right side from 3 yards out for the score. Woodward went for the two-point-conversion, but a bad-snap fumble kept the score at 14-0.
With a string of injuries forcing most of Calistoga’s players to play new positions, the Wildcats had miscommunication issues and most run plays were stopped at the line of scrimmage. They netted negative total yardage in the first half and were outgained 248-39 for the contest.
“Once again we lost some linemen and with a patchwork offensive line, you see what happens. We just can’t get any consistency,” Klaczak said. “It was just one of those games where you get your butts whipped. This part of the schedule is just brutal, and we have Stuart Hall of San Francisco next week.”
Tomales continued to score, this time in the second quarter, as Andy Azevedo darted around the right side 27 yards for the score – the longest run of the night for either side. The Wildcats stopped the two-point conversion again to stay within 20-0.
But the Braves would score on every drive except the last, when they ran out the clock. Woodward added his second touchdown before halftime on a 1-yard run, and Azevedo took his hand at the going for two and the senior easily cashed in for the 28-0 lead at the break.
“Just little things were off – the quarterback turns the wrong way, bad snap from center, the running back doesn’t hit the hole, offensive line gives up a false start,” Klaczak said. “When you add all those things up, when you are a team that is marginal, you can’t afford those mistakes.”
Calistoga opened the third quarter with two no-gains and a 5-yard loss and was forced to punt. Azevedo nabbed his second rushing touchdown of the game on the followed drive, on a 4-yard counter play. The self-inflected wounds continued for the Wildcats, with another drive resulting in a punt. The snap flew over Caldera’s head and rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety, making it 30-0.
The Calistoga offense was able to pick up some yardage late in the contest, as Caldera connected with Jasiel Flores on two passes – the only two receptions for either side. The latter went for a 15-yard touchdown catch. Caldera found Flores against for the two-point-conversion. Caldera had more yards on that one pass than he had rushing all night, a team-high 13 yards on 16 carries.
“We just need to learn from our mistakes and go hard in practice,” Jesus Rojas-Mendoza said. “Learn for the next game and just keep training. Just need to focus on the next game.”