Even before the RedHawks offense saw the field in Live Oak on Friday night, senior Conner Saso was having a stellar night against the Lions.
Live Oak’s offense went six yards in three plays on the game’s opening drive before punting the ball to Saso, who fielded it and returned it 86 yards for a touchdown. Saso barely had time to catch his breath when, on the Lions’ next play from scrimmage, he picked off Live Oak quarterback Carlos Palma Grove at Colusa’s 21-yard line, and returned the interception 79 yards for a touchdown.
Saso’s early-game heroics helped set the tone for Colusa as they cruised to a 33-7 victory in their final regular season game before the Northern Section playoffs.
Saso said after the game that the RedHawks had watched a lot of game film on Live Oak, and had seen some exploitable weaknesses on Live Oak’s punt coverage.
“Coach was kind of hyping me up, telling me I needed to get one this week,” Saso said.
Get one he did: Saso fielded the ball on a bounce at his own 14-yard line, and made use of big blocks by Leo Guzman, Fernando Castillo, Cameron Telford and Christian Lyss before outrunning everyone else to the end-zone. Saso’s 79-yard interception return was equally impressive. Needless to say, the two long plays in quick succession left him a little winded as he took the snap for the ensuing two-point attempt. Just how winded was he after sprinting more than 165 yards?
“Oh, you don’t even want to know,” Saso said with a smile.
Saso did get his wind back, and proceeded to add a pair of touchdown passes before all was said and done.
While Saso was providing explosive plays for the RedHawks in all three phases, Christian Lyss was their workhorse on offense, consistently churning out positive yards on the ground. Lyss finished with 126 yards on 20 carries, including a six-yard touchdown run that came late in the third quarter.
Aside from a nine-play, 68-yard touchdown drive in the latter goings of the first half, Live Oak’s offense was largely held in check by the RedHawks defense. Pedro Cardenas led the team with six tackles, Luis Espinoza and Riley Stice each registered a sack, and Cameron Telford forced and recovered a fumble.
The only major blemish for RedHawks came in the fourth quarter, when two players – one each from Live Oak and Colusa – were ejected for fighting. While Colusa head coach Matt Jessee said he wasn’t happy that the team’s win had been marred by the incident, he felt that the night – up until that point – had been a positive one for Colusa as they head into the first round of the Northern Section Division IV playoffs.
“I felt like we were able to establish some good momentum heading forward,” Jessee said after the game.
Colusa (7-3) earned the No. 4 seed for the playoffs, and hosts No. 5 seed Mt. Shasta (5-3) on Friday night at 6 PM. ■