The Weston Ranch Cougars showed plenty of offensive firepower on offense in Friday’s season opener, but visiting Ceres had a little bit of everything, and just enough to escape with a 48-42 victory.
“It was all the little stuff that killed us,” said Weston Ranch coach Seth Davis.
In particular, penalties that occurred early on or at inopportune moments.
His quarterback, Amier Bowen, was as good as advertised, completing 23 of 35 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns. He threw to seven different receivers while rushing for 169 yards on 17 carries with two more scores.
“We have plenty of weapons on offense,” Davis said.
Defense was a different matter.
Andrew Gibson paced the Bulldogs (1-0), scoring four touchdowns. His 22-yard scoring grab with 3:39 left in the game thwarted the Cougars’ comeback hopes. Ceres took an early 13-0 lead on a pair of Gibson touchdowns.
Weston Ranch (0-1) finally got untracked offensively late in the first quarter.
Bowen hit Julius Nelson Jr. on a big third-down play, setting up a 10-yard scoring toss to Larry Fairbanks.
But then the Cougars hit a rough stretch.
Ceres punter Dalton Durossette, who was also efficient at quarterback, pinned Weston Ranch inside of its 5-yard line.
The Bulldogs’ defense tightened up, tackling the ball carrier in the end zone for a safety. Ceres got the ball right back with Durossette going straight to David Nichols, who made a nifty grab for a touchdown.
On special teams, Nichols blocked a punt, recovering the loose ball for another score.
Weston Ranch was down 27-6.
The Cougars bounced back right before the half, with Bowen finding Desmond Ware for six.
Midway in the third, Ceres took a 34-12 lead.
Bowen showed his elusiveness running the ball. His 15-yard scoring run coupled with two-point conversion pass to Andrew Williams cut the deficit.
Weston Ranch came to within striking distance of the lead in the fourth thanks to Bowen’s 13-yard touchdown run.
He then found Gerald Schufford to make it a five-point game.
Both teams traded scores before the Bulldogs milked the clock to close out the game.
The Cougars will travel up the road to face their south Stockton rival Edison next week.