Warriors click in 2nd quarter, beat Santa Paula, 28-11

Speedster Jonathan Esqeuda watched Carpinteria High’s 28-11 homecoming win over Santa Paula from a wheelchair at the 50-yard line Friday night after suffering serious injuries in a car accident last weekend.

The No. 23 circle on the field and several T-shirts worn by coaches to honor their leading rusher provided a somber reminder of the fragile nature of the human body but also an emotional boost to a Warrior team desperately in need of a win to validate a season marred only by losses to two of the CIF’s top-ranked teams.

Carpinteria senior quarterback Ian Craddock

Ian Craddock passed for 126 yards and a touchdown against Santa Paula.

“Jon was in our hearts all week at practice,” said senior quarterback Ian Craddock. “It was great to see him here tonight. I was surprised he was able to stay as long as he did.”

Esqueda left during a 45-minute delay midway into the fourth quarter that was used to remove Santa Paula receiver Oscar Cancino with all appropriate caution after Cancino landed on his head and suffered an apparent head or neck injury. By that time, however, the game was effectively over as the Warriors held a 28-3 lead.

Carpinteria scored on three straight drives in the second quarter for a 21-3 lead at halftime and made it 28-3 late in the third period on an 80-yard punt return by Bryson Craddock.

Santa Paula (5-4 and 0-3), was also angling for an at-large spot but was twice intercepted in the end zone and hurt all night by penalties. As a result, the Warriors improved to 7-2 overall and 1-2 in league, with their season finale against No. 1-ranked Oak Park.

“I don’t know what else we can do,” said Carpinteria coach Ben Hallock of his team’s chances for an at-large playoff berth. “We’ve got seven wins and our losses are to really good teams. Even if we beat Oak Park, we can’t get better than fourth (in league) but we could make Nordhoff a league champ.

“Nordhoff’s our biggest fan right now,” Hallock added with a laugh. “They might even come to our game instead of theirs next week.”

Santa Paula drove to the Carpinteria 15 on its first possession but stalled due to two holding penalties, a problem that would hurt the Cardinals all night. It settled on a 37-yard field goal.

The Warriors then stalled on two straight drives into Santa Paula territory, extending a streak of scoreless quarters for their offense to eight. But then, as fast as a darting cutback by a healthy Esqueda, the Warriors took off. Six straight runs ended with an 11-yard, tackle-busting touchdown run by Peter Ramos and a Craddock kick for a 7-3 lead.

After forcing a punt, six more runs led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Ramos with 2:48 to play.

“We’ve been struggling with our execution on our blocking schemes,” noted Hallock. “When you execute like you should, the ball moves down the field better than when you don’t.”

Carpinteria’s defense added a little muscle of its own, forcing a quick punt by the Cardinals. The Warriors capitalized as Craddock completed passes of 7 and 11 yards and then found Duncan Gordon going up the middle into an open seam and connected for a 33-yard touchdown.

Craddock finished 9-for-13 for 126 yards in the air while Ramos rushed for 92 yards on 20 carries.

“It was pretty much next man up (replacing Esqueda) at linebacker,” said Craddock. “But for running back we had to do it by committee. It was a little of Peter, a little of Tim (Jimenez) and a little of Bryson (Frazier).”

Santa Paula’s Noah Magana kept the Cardinals in the game with a remarkable 220-yard rushing effort. Although his darting moves to the outside and sharp cutbacks undoubtedly made an impression on the Warrior defenders, the most difficult part of his effort may have been to gain all those yards on 27 carries without finding the end zone. He actually did score once, but it was wiped out by a penalty, one of 12 flags totaling 138 yards called against the Cardinals.

“Penalties really killed us, especially in the first half,” said Santa Paula coach Mike Montoya. “Noah ran real hard tonight. We tried get back to pounding the ball but our passing game (5-for-22) wasn’t up to our running game.”

Montoya added that Cancino was able to move his limbs before leaving the field on a stretcher.