AMERICAN CANYON — The Will C. Wood High football team showed flashes of brilliance in its season opener, but had no answer for the thunder of American Canyon.
The Wildcats turned two turnovers into touchdowns, including a 40-yard interception return by Grant Hilyer, but gave up 431 yards to the Wolves in a 38-22 nonleague loss on Friday night.
“There were a lot of really good lessons,” Wood coach Carlos Meraz said. “We can do some things. The kids showed some flashes. We’ve got to sustain some things.”
That showed from the opening kickoff as the Wildcats held onto the ball for nearly 4 minutes before being forced to punt – with punter Ryan Nules failing to get the kick away and being nailed for a 14-yard loss.
Four plays later, Jomon Dotson took a pitch around the right side 23 yards for the first of his two first-half touchdowns.
Another promising Wood possession ended in disaster when American Canyon’s Malik Beachum intercepted a Tyler Bailey pass and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown. Derrick Hughes’s conversion run made it 14-0 with 4 minutes, 50 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Wolves again took little time in scoring once they got the ball back, going 59 yards in four plays, the last a 36-yard pass from quarterback Michael Rapacon to tight end Tristen LaPlume. Wood’s Desmond McIver made the first of his two conversion blocks to keep the score 20-0.
Just as the game looked ready to be turned into a rout, the Wildcats came alive.
Bailey hit Arthur Jackson over the middle and Jackson raced down the right sideline to put the visitors on the board. Damon Lewis ran in the conversion to make it 20-8 with 24.5 seconds left in the opening period.
Yet again the Wolves pounced quickly with Dotson going up the middle before cutting down the left sideline and racing 56 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the second quarter.
The senior standout, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season, finished the night with 168 yards on 17 carries.
Wood’s next possession ended with a fumbled snap on the American Canyon 17-yard line, but Hilyer turned things around in a hurry, picking off a Rapacon pass and returning it 40 yards for a touchdown with 5:47 to go in the half. Adam Cunning’s conversion kick made it 26-15 at the break.
American Canyon essentially iced the game with two third quarter touchdowns – runs of 3 and 11 yards by Rapacon and Gary Cooper, respectively.
The Wolves appeared ready to tack on another score late in the fourth quarter when Wood’s Frederick Douglas scooped up a fumble at the Wildcats’ 8-yard line and returned it 58 yards to the American Canyon 44.
Two plays later, Damon Gidron took a swing pass from Bailey and rambled 36 yards for the final touchdown with 1:02 left in the game. Cunning’s kick made it 38-22.
Bailey finished the game 11 of 17 for 169 yards. Lewis led the Wildcats in rushing with 57 yards on 16 carries.
In addition to Dotson’s big yards, Cooper had 105 yards on 14 carries and quarterbacks Rapacon and Trey Jones combined for 106 yards on 13 carries.
“That was a very good team we faced,” Meraz said. “They made the playoffs last season for a reason. They’re a good program. The first quarter we were back on our heels a little bit,” Meraz said. “That’s what preseason games are all about. The second and third (quarters) we picked up a few things. There were lessons learned from this game.”
The lessons continue at Pioneer of Woodland next Friday.
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.