East Union came into its Week 3 contest with the top passing offense in the Sac-Joaquin Section, but it was the running game and defense that kept visiting Enochs at bay Friday at Guss Schmiedt Field.
The defense forced four turnovers, three of them fumbles recovered inside its own 10-yard line, and junior running back Cesar Salinas scampered for 105 yards and two touchdowns as the Lancers rolled to their third straight victory, 30-7.
This guarantees that they’ll carry a winning record into their rigorous Valley Oak League schedule. After its upcoming bye, EU closes pre-league play against Stockton power Lincoln in two weeks.
“We still have some work to do, but it’s nice,” Lancers linebacker Carson Sanders said of his team’s 3-1 start. We’re still coming together, and we need a little more time to click.”
The third-year starter recovered one of those fumbles for a turnover. Defensive tackle Sebastian Arrizano and safety/linebacker Julian Perez also had fumble recoveries. Tony Agueda and Brayden Camara each came up with a quarterback sack.
The Lancers were able to keep Enochs standout running back Aiden Muhammad out of the end zone and limited him to 94 yards on 19 rushes.
“Our defense is doing a great job right now flying around,” East Union coach Mike Kuhnlenz said. “They do a great job of reading their keys. They have a really good running back, and I thought our guys did a really good job. … I’m super excited about how our defense is playing, we just have to get that offense going. I have to talk to that offensive coordinator.”
Kuhnlenz, the architect of EU’s prolific spread offense, is mentoring a talented albeit young cast of skill position players. The Lancers were also bit by the turnover bug, losing one fumble and throwing two interceptions.
The two teams, in fact, traded turnovers on three consecutive plays in the second quarter, with the Eagles (2-2) of Modesto coughing up two of them.
Sophomore quarterback Kirk Simoni completed 23 of 32 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns to Blake Mount (eight receptions, 67 yards). J.P. Abrew got the most targets, finishing with 10 catches for 83 yards.
Enochs signal caller Jakob Hilterbrand completed all six of his passes for 35 yards but left with an injury after getting sacked late in the third quarter. Micah Rapier took over behind center and had a hand in Enochs’ biggest play of the game, a 70-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Kaedon Kopp in the fourth quarter.
It was the only big hiccup on an otherwise stellar night for the East Union defense. The Lancers answered immediately, icing the win on Salinas’ 60-yard dash to paydirt. Salinas accounted for 18 of his team’s points, scoring on three two-point conversion runs.
“This is a very unselfish offense,” Salinas said. “Everyone is going to be able to touch the ball, it’s just that when the time comes, you have to be able to capitalize on it.”
The bye week comes at an opportune time for the Lancers, who had multiple players get banged up from the physical and sometimes-chippy tussle. They’ll visit Lincoln on Sept. 22.
“We have a long way to go,” Kuhnlenz said. “Love our guys, great group of young men, but we have to clean a lot up — especially on the offensive side. That’s on me. I have to do a better job on offense, because we’re struggling all over on offense. That’s a direct reflection of me. A little frustrated with myself right now.”
Enochs 0 0 0 7 — 7
East Union 8 8 0 14 — 30
EU — Blake Mount 8 pass from Kirk Simoni (Cesar Salinas run), 7:54.
EU — Salinas 4 run (Salinas run), 11:17.
EU — Mount 18 pass from Simoni (Salinas run), 7:02.
E — Kaedon Kopp 70 pass from Micah Rapier (Ansel Mello kick), 5:54.
EU — Salinas 60 run (run failed), 5:42.