Ryker Peters found himself in familiar territory – frequently – on Friday night, entering the end zone five times.
He paced the college football effort as the Cougars traveled to Reno, Nevada, and edged the host Damonte Ranch Mustangs by a 43-29 finish.
But almost overshadowing his performance was the unusual and often immature emotional behavior of Escalon players on the pitch.
The match itself may have seen the desired result, in the win column, but head coach Andrew Beam said that was definitely not the way he wanted to see his team play in the match. season opener.
“If you get it, you tell me,” the coach said rhetorically of the unusual feel of the competition and his side’s emotional response to numerous games, including one which saw two players – one from each team – sent off in the first quarter. “With so many returning players, we played like a bunch of inexperienced freshman college guys, we let things happen to us and we looked like a very immature team; we made mistakes that were uncharacteristic.
In the first quarter, after netting a pass, Logan Anderson was tackled hard, including the Damonte Ranch player committing a blatant facemask penalty that went uncalled. On the ground, a Mustang player then stormed in and hit Anderson when he was already down. This was reported and prompted an immediate response from Owen Nash, who rushed in and pushed the offending Damonte Ranch player from behind. Anderson and Nash served as captains for the Friday night game.
Nash was then flagged and the player who hit Anderson while he was down and Nash were ejected. Beam said he was satisfied with the referees’ explanation – Nash committed a “blind hit” by pushing his opponent from behind, considered a dangerous play with an automatic ejection. If he had pushed from the side or from the front, he might have been penalized but not ejected. And while he was defending his teammate; Regardless, Beam said he exhibited the behavioral issues displayed by many Cougars on Friday night.
“We lost our best two-way player,” Beam said of Nash’s ejection. “But it’s a life lesson… our actions have consequences.”
The senior will also have to sit out the next game due to the penalty.
On the field, Escalon lost the coin toss and Damonte Ranch opted to kick off to start the game.
“We had a great first practice to open the game, 10 plays, 80 yards, great opener to start the season,” Beam said.
It ended on a 9-yard touchdown run from Peters, with Vicente Gonzalez adding the extra point.
Damonte Ranch responded with an 80-yard drive on his first possession to tie it at 7-7.
Four plays later, Escalon got a 6-yard touchdown from Peters, point after good, up 14-7.
“Then we had an interception from Nate Krieger and Logan went 27 yards for the touchdown, with Ryker taking the two-point conversion for a 22-7 lead,” Beam said.
An 8-yard run, point after good, put the Cougars up 29-7 early in the second.
The Mustangs got on the scoreboard late in the first half, capitalizing on an interception that stopped a Cougar drive – a Beam believes he could have put the host team away – and instead scored a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to trail 29-15 at the half.
The Mustangs got the ball to start the second half and scored to cut the lead to 29-21.
“We bounced back with a 14-yard run from Peters and the next point to go up 36-21 but we had three fumbles in the fourth quarter that really hurt us and let them get back in the game,” said the coach.
Each team would score another touchdown before the final whistle for the final 43-29.
In the end, some key defensive plays, including a Matthew Baptista interception and a late goal line, kept the Cougars on the right side of the score.
Baptista and Krieger both had interceptions while Nico Franzia, Sawyer Mello and Ayden Wilson added sacks. Peters and Jamin Miller each recorded eight tackles.
Escalon had 462 total yards on the night, Damonte Ranch had 320.
Escalon had nine penalties for 81 yards, Damonte Ranch two for 25.
Offensively, Anderson had 13 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown, as well as two catches for 49 yards. Peters had 21 carries for 227 yards and five touchdowns on the night.
“A win is a win,” Beam summed up the contest. “It was a long road trip, the first game out of state for the Cougars and we got the win.”