Redwood and Sanger are no strangers to each other when it comes to postseason football.
The two teams met for the third straight season in the Central Section Division II playoffs on Friday night.
Redwood knocked Sanger out of the playoffs in 2011 with a 42-41 win, and Sanger returned the favor in 2012 with a 17-14 victory.
The two teams met again on Friday night at the Giant Chevrolet Cadillac-Mineral King Bowl and they weren’t separated by much on the scoreboard.
In the end, it was No. 5 Sanger pulling out a hard-fought 7-0 win over No. 4 Redwood to advance to the Division II semifinals.
“These three games against them have been very close,” Sanger coach Chuck Shidan said. “They all came down to a mistake. Two years ago, a fumble and a missed extra point cost us, and last year, they made a mistake with a bad snap. This year was a fumble, but there was a lot more to this game than that.”
The fumble Chidan was referring to took place in the fourth quarter. Pinned deep inside the 10-yard line, Redwood fumbled and Sanger recovered at the 8-yard line. Three plays later, quarterback Travis Turner pitched the ball to Kriz Elizondo on an option play and the Apaches scored the only touchdown of the game with just 7 minutes, 25 seconds remaining.
With neither team able to muster much on offense, field position played a huge factor in the game.
And it was Redwood on the short end of things. The Rangers started drives inside their 20-yard line on six different occasions, and they started inside their 10 four times, limiting them on what they could offensively.
The Sanger punter, Elizondo, did a good job of keeping the ball out of the end zone.
“I’ll take the blame for that,” Ball said. “When they pinned us deep, I was worried about them going for the fake. Not setting up for a return and playing for the fake, that was my fault. The field position is on me.”
Special teams and especially defense were impressive for both teams.
Sanger managed just 143 yards of offense, and Redwood totaled 203 yards.
But it was Sanger’s interior lineman that proved to be the difference. Redwood running back Chrisian Sanchez ripped off a 45-yard run on the first play of the game, but was limited to just three yards the rest of the game. Quarterback Adam Vance was pressured all night and was sacked five times.
The force in the middle for Sanger was senior Kessean McCandless (6-foot-3, 290 pounds).
“This is by far his best game,” Shidan said. “We told him, ‘if you just have a motor, you’re a big-time player.’ He had his best game of the year and he saved it for the best time.”
Redwood wasn’t short of great defensive performances either, which Ball said he expected.
“We knew it was going to be a game like this,” he said. “We both had two weeks to prepare and they’re a well-coached team. We had our chances. We just couldn’t make a couple plays and they beat us.”
Redwood finished the season with an 8-3 record.
“I truly thought we’d go further than this,” Ball said. “It is a huge disappointment to me. I can’t believe we’re not going to practice on Monday.”
Sanger (8-3) will play at No. 1 El Diamante at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We don’t know too much about them,” Shidan said. “We saw them on film and we know they’re a solid team. I know coach [Mark] Rogers teaches them well. It will be a tough game. I assume it will be just like this, hopefully not this exciting though.”
The season ended a little sooner than Ball would have liked, but in his three seasons, Redwood has posted a 22-13 record and reached the postseason all three times.
And the future looks even brighter.
“It is a good time to be a Ranger,” Ball said.