Canadian Wildcat football hosted the River Road Wildcats for the home opener, and to help prepare the players for the game, coaches taped up in each locker “Same Name; Different Game” motivational quotes to remind the Canadian players that the bar and expectation level is much higher for the blackand-gold Wildcat team.
The game was dominated by the hometown Wildcats as they dismantled River Road and held momentum of the game from the onset. Canadian opened up the scoring, picking up where they left off last week, by using their ground game. Sophomore Jake Krehbiel found pay dirt on the opening drive, and kicker Edgar Salazar’s extra point was true to give Canadian a lead they would not relinquish. River Road had a tough time handling the aggressive defense led by upfront men Saul Escamilla, Rhet Pennington, and Colton Cooper, and could not manage anything sustainable against Canadian. After forcing River Road to punt, Canadian began to move the ball with their patented offense through the air and on the ground, and notched their second score with senior quarterback Grant McCook plowing in with a run to give Canadian a quick twotouchdown lead following Salazar’s kick.
The black-and-gold Wildcats certainly had their way, controlling the tempo, momentum, and score of the game, and frustrating the River Road faithful who traveled to the game. Young Krehbiel, again, found the end zone before the first quarter expired, giving him two touchdowns on the night, leaving River Road shaking their head at a 21-0 score.
Canadian didn’t yield and continued their onslaught into the second quarter. With a full head of steam and the engine running on all cylinders, McCook added his second touchdown of the game, proving he and Krehbiel to be the one-two punch that River Road just had no answer for. Salazar remained true on extra points, and as the sun began to set on the stadium, so did the hopes of the Wildcats of River Road.
The feel-good play of the game followed and truly sealed the game for Canadian. After Canadian forced River Road to punt deep in their end of the field, the River Road punter muffed the snap and was attempting to flee the arms of Bill Koetting to avoid a safety only to poorly punt the ball directly to Canadian’s Saul Escamilla. Escamilla caught it right on the goal line and stepped it in for a touchdown. It was a wild moment that sent the Canadian fans into an absolute frenzy. “We were all high-fiving him after that,” said Pennington after the game. “That was a crazy play, and we were all just happy for Saul to get that touchdown.” Koetting kept his starters in for
the remainder of the game and continued to drive the ball against River Road. One of the benefits saw the passing game improve vastly over the previous week’s contest at WT, and Canadian’s passing game found the end zone before the half as McCook found Bill Koetting slicing up the seam to make the score 42-0 at the half.
Head Coach Chris Koetting was positive following the game when he addressed his players. “A lot better,” he said to them confidently. “We dominated them the first half, and we could have done a lot worse to them—a lot worse.” Koetting pulled the starters after halftime, in part to protect his team that already has some banged up players.
Koetting said that he thought both the Canadian offense and defense did well during the River Road game. “I thought we executed very well offensively,” Koetting recalled. “I was excited to put 42 points on the board in two quarters. I think we (players and coaches) all felt better about the game after this one than we did after the WT game.” Coach Koetting also had positive words about Canadian’s defense. “Their style of offense fits what our defense does well, and I thought we really smothered them. They couldn’t get anything going offensively against us,” he said. Koetting noted that the game had some moments of concern, but said he believed his team was headed in the right direction with the second game of the season under their belt.
One of those moments came early in the third quarter when Josh Culwell went down with a foot injury. With a sideline consisting of shoulder slings, scooters, splints, sprains, casts, and wrist wraps, Culwell’s injury adds to an already full infirmary wing in the Canadian Wildcat fieldhouse. “We have been extremely lucky to not have had very many injuries in the past,” Koetting stated. “But to have this many starters out with injuries is something we have not really ever had to deal with.” Canadian is now down six players who would normally fill a starting role. In true Koetting fashion, he remains positive and said he looks at the situation as a positive for some of the other kids on the roster to step up and contribute. Koetting had good things to say about some of those players who did just that against River Road. “I thought Jake Krehbiel really stepped up this week,” he said. “Stephen Pulliam at linebacker did a heck of a job stepping in and contributing.” Koetting continued, “Israel Guerrero also did a great job at linebacker because we had two linebackers out against River Road. Fernando Perez came in and filled in for Colton Risley. I was very pleased with how our kids responded to adversity.”
Krehbiel said, after the game, he was excited to be on the varsity team and contribute in a positive way. “My main focus is on doing what I need to when I am called to perform to the best of my ability and help the team get a win,” he said. “I feel like this game got me more confident, and I think I can be a better ball carrier next week.” When asked about scoring his first varsity touchdown, his smile was infectious as he said, “It felt amazing. It was good.”
With attention now on Perryton, Canadian renews a game that, according to Koetting, “...is kind of a rivalry game.” With proximity being a factor, many people in the two communities know and interact with one another, but come Friday night—both communities will want to see their team win. “The Perryton game is always a big game. Here lately, we have been on the winning end of most of them, but it would make their season if they could beat us,” said Koetting.
Koetting said that the Rangers are resurging and that the Perryton coaches have made some quality changes in their program. The Rangers now have a kicker in Kenny Ramirez who has proven his range in games, making three field goals against Childress. Braydon Klafka and Donovan Vela are solid in the backfield for Perryton, and with seven offensive starters and six defensive starters, Ranger coach Steven Coursey will have his team ready for Canadian. “In the past, they ran a spread offense similar to ours, but in the last couple of years, they just haven’t had the type of players to run that system of offense. Now, they’ve gone to more of a running-type offense that plays to the strength of their players’ skillset,” he explained. “This year, Perryton has been controlling the clock and using long drives, but here lately, they have opened it up quite a bit and thrown the ball around” Koetting believes that the Rangers are on the brink of getting back to a high level of play that they have been known for in past years.
Koetting said it’s a perennial battle with Perryton. “It’s always a tough game,” he said. “They are considerably better this year than they have been in years past, but then again, they are always tough. I’ve always been impressed with their defense. They always play really good defense. We have struggled with them the last couple of years—moving the ball on them.
“Perryton has some big bodies upfront,” said Koetting. The players he is referring to are Ubaldo Tarango, 6 feet tall and 260 pounds; and Yordi Hernandez, 5feet, 11 inches and 270 pounds.“...And they are just a good, solid team,” Koetting cautioned. For measure, Koetting noted what the Rangers were able to accomplish just this last week. “They beat Childress last week, and we all know that it’s not easy to beat Childress.”
The game is slated to start at 7:00 pm at Ranger Stadium in Perryton.