WESTON RANCH — Willie Cervantes had a homecoming he’ll long remember.
The Weston Ranch High senior had pestered his coaches into letting him play fullback.
Against East Union, they finally gave in. Cervantes made good on that decision on Friday, scoring his first-ever touchdown in the fourth quarter while helping his team to a 42-36 victory over the Lancers.
“I’m feeling good right now,” he said.
Cervantes, who, according to acting head coach Jerry Cook, provided a new wrinkle on the Cougars’ offense.
“He was our starting left tackle,” said Cook, who was filling in at the helm for the suspended Mike Hale. “Our game plan was to run against East Union and we thought Willie could help (in the offensive backfield).”
Weston Ranch (1-2 in the Valley Oak League, 2-4 overall) often operated in a tight formation, with the backfield featuring Tremain Buntan and Donnell Simms alongside Cervantes and quarterback James Simerly.
As for the results, the Cougars racked up 400 yards on the ground on 58 carries. Buntan led the way with a game-high 177 yards on 20 pops with one touchdown.
Simms finished with 157 yards on 18 attempts while scoring three TDs including two in that decisive fourth quarter.
Cervantes picked up 69 hard-fought yards on 12 tries.
“I never played fullback in a game before,” Cervantes later said. “I’ve only been playing football since my sophomore year.”
The homecoming win by Weston Ranch overshadowed an outstanding performance by East Union wide receiver T.J. Williams, who, at times, was nearly unstoppable.
He caught 11 passes for 199 yards and scored four TDs.
His quarterback, Joe Menzel, completed 18 of his 28 passes for 292 yards with one interception.
East Union (1-2, 1-5) took control of the game early on, taking advantage of good field position following a muffed punt. On just their second play, the Lancers scored on Menzel’s 36-yard strike to Williams.
Alex Dias’ extra point kick made it 7-0.
The Cougars responded with Alex Esan returing the ensuing kickoff to the Lancers 45.
Seven plays later, Buntan scored on a 2-yard run.
Weston Ranch appeared back in business when Demitrius Kelly intercepted a pass at midfield. But East Union returned the favor when Zac Lewellen scooped up a fumble and rumbled 55 yards for a touchdown.
The Cougars continued to rely on their ground game, using a variety of runners including Esan. Simms’ 1-yard plunge helped tie the game at 14-14.
The Lancers went to the air on their next possession. Menzel found Williams five times on the drive including the 14-yard scoring strike.
Down 21-14 midway in the second, Weston Ranch also found success in the air, with Simerly hitting his tight end, Sean Visperas, on a 32-yard touchdown toss.
Tied 21-21 at the half, East Union quickly went back on top in the third quarter. On the second play, Menzel connected with Williams on a 72-yard scoring bomb.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Cougars,
Cervantes scored on the first play of the quarter and Simms had 11-yard touchdown run, capping a drive highlighted by Buntings’ 59-yard gain, to put Weston Ranch ahead.
He later added some late-game insurance with a 6-yard TD run.
“We just couldn’t stop the run,” said East Union coach Willie Herrera. “As much as I hate to admit it, they overpowered us.”
Still, he was proud of his team’s no-quit effort.
“We just didn’t have enough in the tank,” Herrera said.