Since going 0-2 in his first two Cowhide appearances, coach Shaun Ball has the Redwood Rangers rolling in one of the biggest rivalries in the Central Section.
Redwood retained the Cowhide for the third straight year. The Rangers routed the Mt. Whitney Pioneers 45-14 in the 61st annual Cowhide Game on Friday at Giant Chevrolet-Cadillac Mineral King Bowl.
In Redwood’s past three Cowhide victories, the Rangers have outscored the Pioneers 121-41 and their average margin of victory is 26 points.
The Rangers now lead the all-time series 35-25-1.
“It feels pretty good,” Ball said. “It’s been a rough season for all of us, and to end it on this note, it makes a huge difference for these kids. I’m extremely happy for them to end the season on a note like this. It’s unbelievable.”
Despite the lopsided score, Mt. Whitney had a chance early.
Junior defensive lineman Darius Mendonza picked up a Redwood fumble on the opening drive, and raced 52 yards the other way for a touchdown.
With that scoop and score, the Pioneers struck first and held a 7-0 lead just 55 seconds into the rivalry.
On the ensuing kickoff, Mt. Whitney recovered the onside kick and the Pioneers looked to be in the driver’s seat.
With the ball resting at the Redwood 49, running back Tyler Boss, who started in the place of injured leading rusher Isaac Campos, darted for a gain of one. Demetrius Leyva picked up seven yards on the next play, but quarterback Isaiah’s Salazar third-down pass sailed incomplete and the Pioneers punted.
Redwood started its second drive of the game at its own 23.
With Frankie Ayon at the controls, the Rangers were nearly unstoppable on this night.
Ayon capped off the 12-play, 77-yard drive with an impressive 28-yard scramble for a touchdown on a broken play.
Ayon’s versatility proved to be the X-Factor and Redwood went on to score 38 unanswered points.
Redwood built a commanding 38-14 advantage heading into the final quarter.
“It’s all about them,” Ball said. “They executed the game plan better than they have all season. It’s all about them. They came together and did what they needed to do. It was just awesome to watch and see.”
Ayon accounted for three total touchdowns. He fired a 28-yard pass to Damian Garcia in the second quarter and sealed his outstanding Cowhide debut with a 38-yard scamper in the fourth.
“It’s a great experience,” Ayon said. “We came out with a lot of intensity. It feels great. The environment tonight was awesome.”
Ayon, a shifty 5-foot-10, 160-pounder, rushed for 113 yards on 12 carries and completed 8-of-14 passes for 121 yards.
“I knew I had a lot of pressure coming in, but I just took a deep breath and played my game,” Ayon said. “We were on point. Everything was working. I love my team.”
As Redwood’s featured back, senior Justin Williams ran for a game-high 123 yards. He scored on a four-yard run in the third period.
The Rangers’ defense played nearly flawless football. They contained Mt. Whitney’s spread offense and yielded just two rushing yards on 25 carries. They also recorded six sacks and forced the Pioneers to punt eight times.
In all, Redwood limited Mt. Whitney to 151 yards of total offense.
“Our defense just came together,” Ball said. “It’s not one guy. It’s about our team defense. They did everything they were asked to do.”
MW — Darius Mendoza 52 fumble return (Jose Mendoza kick), 11:05.
R — Frankie Ayon 28 run (Cooper Allen kick), 3:16.
R — Patrick Vega fumble recovery (Allen kick), 11:47.
R — Michael Bean 13 run (Allen), 6:15.
R — Damian Garcia 28 pass from Ayon (Allen kick), :06.
R — Allen 27 field goal, 8:37.
R — Williams 4 run (Allen kick), 3:10.
MW — Jose Cisneros 7 pass from Isaiah Salazar (Mendoza kick), :59.
R — Ayon 38 run (Allen kick), 4:20.
RUSHING — Redwood: Justin Williams 22-123, Frankie Ayon 12-113, Manuel Florez 1-3, Michael Bean 8-50, Damian Garcia 1-(minus), Humberto Nunez 4-7. 4 Mt. Whitney: Tyler Boss 7-16, Demetrius Leyva 2-7, Isaiah Salazar 10-(minus) 46, Michael Ingram 3-8, Anthony Day 1-1, Jonathan Goad 2-16.
PASSING — Redwood: Ayon 8-14-0 121. Mt. Whitney: Salazar 12-19-0 141, Leyva 0-1-0, Goad 1-3-0 8.
RECEIVING — Redwood: Jeremy Tayo 1-13, Florez 1-8, Williams 2-15, Trent Beck 1-18, Garcia 2-55, Bean 1-12. Mt. Whitney: Boss 2-25, Leyva 3-20, Nate Aleman 1-3, Jose Ciseneros 5-85, Isaiah Ceballos 1-8, Malchijah Bowen 1-8.
Records: Mt. Whitney 4-6, 2-4. Redwood: 3-7, 3-3.