The Modesto Christian High football team had two weeks to stew over its only loss of the 2018 season, a last-second defeat to Ripon that forced the Crusaders to share the Trans-Valley League title.
Modesto Christian took its two weeks of frustration out on Argonaut on Friday night.
The top-seeded Crusaders, who drew a bye in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Division VI playoffs, played a near flawless first half and coasted in the second to open their postseason with a 28-7 win over the eighth-seeded Mustangs.
“We were really motivated coming in,” Modesto Christian quarterback Hayden Sauser said. “The way that (Ripon) game ended, we were really upset. But we really gathered together as a team and were motivated, came out here and made sure we did our job.”
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Crusaders coach Mike Parsons said his players were able to bury the memory of that heart-breaking Ripon defeat — literally.
“Really a bad taste in your mouth every day,” Parsons said. “We actually took a game ball and buried it, literally, and just had to move on and not talk about that game and focus on Argonaut.”
Modesto Christian (10-1) appeared razor sharp in the first half, getting two touchdown runs from running back Jose Hernandez in the first quarter and two Sauser TD passes in the second to take a 28-0 halftime lead.
“First half we were lights out,” said Sauser, the Crusaders’ senior signal-caller.
Sauser completed 8 of 10 passes in the first half for 249 yards and two TDs, including a 29-yarder to tight end Xavier Carlton and a 92-yarder to Johnny Williams.
The only bad thing to happen to Modesto Christian in the first half was a knee injury to Hernandez. He was walking after the game but will be a question mark to play against fourth-seeded Ripon Christian (11-0) in a D-VI semifinal next Friday night.
Things got sloppy, and chippy, in the second half, and the only real question was whether Argonaut (8-4) could avoid the shutout.
The Modesto Christian defense was dominant, but surrendered a 1-yard TD run, by Argonaut’s Jacob Green, with 1:34 left in the game.
“They put up 58 points last week (against Bradshaw Christian) and we knew we could have our hands full,” Parsons said. “I’m really proud of the defense holding those guys.
“It was real sloppy at the end, but in the end we got the victory, and we’ve got to move on to RC and get ready to go.”
Ripon Christian is going to have a challenge to score against a Modesto Christian defense that has allowed only 10 points twice this season.
Parsons said the strength of the defense is up the middle.
“It’s like baseball, if you’re strong up the middle you’re going to be pretty good,” Parsons said. “And we’re really strong up the middle.
“And it’s just the kids. If you’ve got the players you can run the schemes.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the Crusaders have four-star college recruit Xavier Carlton, who as a 6-foot-7, 245-pound junior is a dominant force on defense from his end position. He had two sacks of Argonaut quarterback Wyatt Elmore on Friday.
Carlton has proven to be just as good on offense as a tight end. He’ll be a tough matchup for anybody he faces the rest of the postseason.
“His ability to go up there and get the ball ... it’s pretty fun to throw to,” Sauser said.