Damien Escarcega

Iron-man – Windsor running back/linebacker Damien Escarcega has been a huge contributor for the Jaguars on both sides of the ball through the first three varsity football games.  Photo Scott Gibson, courtesy of Gibson Sports Photography

High school football

The Jaguars scored what may turn out to be their signature win of the 2021 football campaign on Saturday against Rancho Cotate, erasing a 23-0 deficit to stun the visiting Cougars, 28-23.   

Few victories have been as unlikely or miraculous, as Windsor awoke from a deep slumber midway through the third quarter to score 28 unanswered points.

The Jags (1-2) will visit Ukiah this Friday, April 9 in a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Wildcats (2-1) are coming off a 49-0 rout over Healdsburg and should pose another good test for Windsor.

Tale of two halves 

Rancho Cotate had minimal rest when it took the field at Windsor on Saturday night, having played Cardinal Newman just four days earlier. Not a problem, since the Jaguars had no answer for quarterback Ryan Kane or the Rancho Cotate offense in the first half. The Cougars combined a bruising running game with a big play passing attack to keep the chains moving, quickly putting the Jaguars in a 6-0 hole after one.

Rancho continued to dominate the line of scrimmage throughout the second quarter, adding another touchdown and a field goal before going to the halftime locker room up 16-0.

The Cougars showed no signs of slowing down early in the third period, padding their lead with a score on a 10-yard swing pass for a 23-0 cushion.

There was no way to predict what was to come.

Windsor defender Cayden Homan lit the match when he recovered a Cougar fumble deep in Rancho territory with six minutes left in the third. Jag’s quarterback Chase Vehmeyer cashed in moments later with a 28-yard touchdown strike to Makhi Johnson. Flynn Stokkeld added the point after kick to cut the deficit to 23-7.  

The momentum quickly shifted to the Windsor defensive unit, which forced a Rancho punt on their next series. The Jags proceeded to mount an 81-yard scoring drive culminating in a 20-yard scoring pass to Nico Contreras for a 23-14 ballgame at the end of three.

The comeback continued on the first play of the fourth quarter when Homan came up with his second fumble recovery of the night, this one resulting in a 30-yard touchdown pass to Johnson on the very next play. The point after kick was good and the Windsor deficit was just 23-21 with a full quarter to play.

Rancho drove to the Jags’ 30 yard line on the next series, but a key sack by linebacker Damien Escarcega forced a Cougar punt.

The Jaguars engineered an 80-yard march late in the period when Vehmeyer found Contreras from 30 yards out to put them ahead for good, 28-23.  Rancho Cotate mounted a last desperate drive with time winding down but the Jag’s defensive unit would not break, stopping the drive at the Windsor six to preserve an unlikely 28-23 victory.  

Perhaps the understatement of the year came from Jag’s head coach Brad Stibi after the game.

“It was a great win for the kids,” he said. 

Vehmeyer enjoyed the best night of his high school career, completing 12 of 22 pass attempts for 200 yards and four touchdowns. Contreras and Johnson led the receiving corps with two touchdown catches apiece. Running backs Joey Skinner, Kaeden Timmons and Escarcega did the bulk of the damage on the ground.

Although there were no official stats available, leading defenders included Nico Zamora, Dominic Roderick, Skinner, Escarcega and Homan.     

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