Sep. 10—With the Liberty Ranch-Bear River game in Grass Valley smoked out due to the Mosquito Fire, Liberty Ranch offered to host the contest at Hawk Stadium in Galt.
The two schools worked together, and with about a day's notice, Liberty Ranch opened its home for Bear River.
And that's where the hospitality stopped, as Liberty Ranch stomped Bear River 57-7 on Friday, dominating in all facets of the game.
The game was still in reach at halftime, when Liberty Ranch led 21-7, but Bear River crumbled under the Hawks' pressure in the second half.
"Our boys definitely came out flat, and I think that's a product of the week that we had," Liberty Ranch coach Warren Schroeder said about practicing inside most of the week due to dangerously high temperatures. "We don't want to use that as an excuse, obviously, we've got to overcome that stuff. The boys know that, and that's what we talked about at halftime, we said hey, you know, we came out not our usual self, so let's gather ourselves up, let's not freak out, there's no yelling or screaming, let's figure out what's going on, draw it up on the board, and we made some great halftime adjustments."
Schroeder credited defensive coordinator Kevin Tibbets with drawing up a defensive plan that shut down Bear River's run game. In fact, the Bruins finished with negative rushing yardage, with minus-4 yards on 23 carries as a team.
"We switched up our base defense a little big knowing we were going to up against a Wing-T system that we're very familiar with," Schroeder said. "And hats off to Bear River, they ran their boot pass really well, we were able to stop the run, and they adjusted to go into the pass game.
"...But our ability to shut down the run with the defensive line, that's a huge bonus for us. You take away the run game, you know they're going to go to the pass."
Liberty Ranch scored early and often, with points from the offense, the defense, and special teams — everybody got involved.
The Hawks scored on their first drive, which started with a 64-yard kickoff return by Kymani Fenika. Four plays later, running back Arthur Draeger scored his first of three touchdowns on a 1-yard plunge through the line.
After trading stalled drives the rest of the first quarter, Liberty Ranch marched down the field to score on a 28-yard Fenika pass to Armando Tapia early in the second quarter. Near the end of the half, Fenika dropped a screen pass into the hands of Draeger, who took it down the sideline, shedding a tackle and receiving a crushing block from teammate Gavin O'Brien, for a 61-yard touchdown.
Bear River responded before the half with a 61-yard pass from Cole Stowers to Drake Woodford, who was wide open over the top of the secondary.
That was the only big play Bear Creek was able to put together.
After the break, Liberty Ranch cranked up the defensive pressure, and Bear Creek crumbled, starting when Shaye Setter jumped an outside route to intercept a Stowers pass and take it 54 yards to the house.
"I've been getting yelled at all week for covering the pass and stuff, so I just wanted to get to the flats as fast as I could," Setter said. "And when I got it, I just knew this is it right here, this was the game-changing scenario hopefully, and it was, so I was happy about that."
Setter's pick-six set off a cascade of Liberty Ranch scores — a blocked punt by Cody Smith and Erik Salas, with a Smith recovery, led to another 1-yard Draeger touchdown, and three plays later Smith snagged a screen pass out of the air and took it 50 yards for another defensive touchdown. Bear River got pinned back on its next drive, but on the punt the snap went high and out the back of the end zone for a safety.
Liberty Ranch had one more touchdown before it was done, a 21-yard scamper by Dominic Perez in the fourth quarter. By that point, the game was under a running clock that only stopped during a brief period when the stadium lights shut off.
"I think we just brought it. We brought more intensity and drive to want to win," Setter said. "I feel like we came out here and underestimated them and thought we were the better team overall, and it kind of bit us in the butt, to say the least. And we came out here in the second half and we just brought it, and we wanted the win."
Bear River (1-2) next faces Justin Siena (1-2) out of Napa, while Liberty Ranch (4-0) will head down to Lodi to face Tokay (3-0) next week. Tokay had its game against West Park-Roseville canceled on Friday, and coach Collin Rhoads said the school is in talks with several schools who also had canceled games to fill its bye week on Sept. 23.
Schroeder said his defense will have a different challenge against Tokay's passing game.
"That's what we want, we want to be able to play these upper division opponents to get us ready for some of the tough teams in our league," Schroeder said. "It's great to have Tokay at the end of this nonleague run, and then we go into the bye week. So win or lose against Tokay, we learn a lot about ourselves, and then going into El Dorado after the bye week, we're going to be very comfortable with knowing what our boys can and can't do and what we're really good at."
Lodi pummels Franklin-Elk Grove
The Flames, playing Franklin in Elk Grove, did not have their game canceled, and Lodi had a field day, running out to a big lead to win 59-27.
For the second week in a row, Lodi played every man on its roster. The Flames led 52-0 before Franklin was able to get on the board.
"Everything was working on the offensive side," said Lodi coach George Duenas. "(Quarterback Matt) Shinn had a big night, he had a couple of big passes, and our running game was great tonight, we had four legit runners that could score."
Kaiden Merryman got things started again for Lodi with a 10-yard touchdown run, followed by a 2-point conversion. Shinn ran one in from 35 yards out, and Lodi led 15-0 after the first quarter.
In the second, Shinn had a 53-yard run, Merryman had a 26-yard run, Lodi scored on a safety, and Shinn had a 6-yard run to give the Flames a 39-0 halftime lead.
The scoring continued after the break, with Merryman scoring from 45 yards out, and a 40-yard pick-six by Bubba Stout. As Franklin started to score against Lodi's depth chart, the Flames had one more touchdown run, a 20-yarder from Lucas Davis.
"We got one more game against Gregori, but we're in a good spot to gain momentum. We have some young guys playing at a higher level than we thought," Duenas said. "We have two legit powers in our league in St. Mary's and Lincoln, so we need to be rolling. That's the goal. We have a team."