Wildcats strike with precision in Rio Americano rout, 49-14

Whitney tightens hold on CAL lead
By: Jim Linsdau Placer Herald Sports Editor
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What looked like it would be a game where the last team with the football would be the winner turned into a Wildcats’ runaway as Whitney High put a stamp on its homecoming by crushing visiting Rio Americano, 49-14, Friday. Both teams went on sustained drives in the first quarter for scores. Whitney missed its point-after kick, but the Raiders made good on theirs for a 7-6 lead. The Wildcats quickly answered in the second period when Connor Graves went on a 40-yard romp into the end zone less than 90 seconds after Rio’s score. Whitney quarterback Jake Rodrigues then tossed a pass to Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick for the 2-point conversion. On the sidelines, Rodrigues described the pass as being like “tossing a dart;” it might as well have been a dagger – directly into the heart of the Raiders. Rio Americano did mount a sustained drive to push the ball down to Whitney’s 2-yard line, but the ‘Cats dug in and forced the Raiders to attempt a field goal. The kick went wide left and the coup-de-grace was complete. “It was a big turning point for the game,” said Wildcats’ linebacker Luc Doyle. “Anytime you stop them inside the 10 it’s demoralizing. I think that defensive stand helped not only our defense, but also our offense.” Perhaps truer words were never spoken as the maroon-and-gold then went on an 80-yard sustained march that ended with Rodrigues carrying the ball in for a score from 1-yard out. Rio Americano again pushed the ball deep into the Wildcats’ territory on a penalty-aided drive, but was again stalled, this time at the 3-yard line. After an incomplete pass ended the Raiders’ hopes of a score, Whitney took a 21-7 lead into intermission. Graves had a near-career night in the second quarter alone as he rushed for 149 yards on six carries. “We just had a good game plan going,” said Graves as to his team’s rushing success. “We just set it all up and do what we do best. We know we’re going into the playoffs and we need to play better there. We’re getting there, for sure.” That couldn’t have been more evident than in the opening of the second half. Whitney scored three touchdowns on three plays in less than two minutes. The first came when Whitney kicked to Rio and the defense forced the Raiders into a three-and-out. Rio Americano’s punt ended up at its 49-yard line. On the Wildcats’ first play from scrimmage, Jordan Powell took the ball down the Raiders’ sideline for the first score. The second came when Ryan Giacomini recovered a Rio fumble on its 19-yard line. Rodriques immediately went back to Giacomini for a touchdown pass. The Raiders then fumbled on their first play from scrimmage following the kickoff. And Rodrigues then found Graves on a 21-yard strike for a touchdown – game, set, match. Whitney 42, Raiders 7, and with a little over 22 minutes remaining in the second half, and it wasn’t over yet. “I wasn’t expecting it to go like that fast,” said potential all-league guard Thaddeus Cox. “I thought it was going to take at least one, two quarters, maybe. Our kickoff team just made some amazing hits. They just pounded on the ball and knocked it out.” Not to mention a knockout of the Raiders. In its next possession, Whitney took it a little slower using four plays to score. The Wildcats took it from their 40-yard line to Rio Americano’s 2-yard line in three plays. Rodrigues then carried the ball the rest of the way for Whitney’s final score. Rio did score one more touchdown when running back Basil Okoroike broke loose for a 47-yard scoring run to end the scoring for the night. Whitney then ran out the clock after that. Whitney improved to 5-2 overall, and 3-0 in the Capital Athletic League. The Wildcats travel to El Camino for a Thursday night game against the 2-5 Eagles. El Camino defeated Cordova, 58-29, Friday, to improve to 1-1 in the CAL. Rio Americano fell to 3-4 on the season, 1-1 in league. Whitney 49, Rio Americano 14 Raiders 7 0 0 7 14 Wildcats 6 15 28 0 49 PASSING Rio Americano – M Lyon 6-13, 67. Whitney – J Rodrigues – 6-7, 58, 2 RUSHING Rio Americano – D Nishi 7-62,1, N Pena 7-57, M Lyon 12-50, 1, B Okoroiki 4-55, 1, M Saria 3-11. Whitney – C Graves 11-213, 2, J Rodrigues 12-43, 2, J Powell 7-101, 1, R Giacomini 2-12, N Torno 6-20, A Yount 2-12. RECEIVING Rio Americano – N Pena 4-54, Z Simas 1-8, G Salazar 1-5. Whitney – R Giacomini 3-30, 1, C Graves 2-25, 1, J Cope-Fitzpatrick 1-3, (2-point conversion).