TRACY — Alex Kukor had never scored a touchdown in his life until Friday night, when he found the end zone twice and scampered for 199 yards on 13 carries in East Union’s 41-20 victory at West.
“I’ve mainly been a defensive player,” said Kukor, who broke away for a 56-yard touchdown with 3:07 remaining to put it out of reach. “I played outside linebacker and tight end but this year they turned me into a wing.”
It paid dividends in the Lancers’ third straight win of 2017, which marks the third consecutive season that they’ve started 3-0. And in every triumph different players basked in the spotlight.
Raylan Carter jolted for 272 yards and four TDs in the season-opener against Ceres, and last week quarterback JoJo Espinosa threw for 245 yards and four scores.
It’s the product of East Union’s high-powered pistol Wing-T, which gives a multitude of athletes a chance to shine.
“This offense is not built around one person,” East Union coach Willie Herrera said. “Alex has been a stout blocker for us but tonight we called his number and he was ready. He did what he had to do.”
East Union totaled 538 yards of offense, churning out 474 of them on the ground. Carter scored on a 55-yard touchdown run and finished with 98 yards and six carries before going down with an apparent ankle injury late in the second quarter. He did not return to action, but Herrera said Carter should be good to go for next week’s Valley Oak League opener with Oakdale.
“Ray got injured, so I knew I was going to get more carries,” Kukor said. “They just kept giving me the ball and the line was opening up the holes. It was easy for me.”
The Lancers dominated at the line of scrimmage throughout, especially in the second half. Espinosa (4 of 8, 64 yards, TD, INT) threw just one pass — an 18-yard completion to Tony Martinez — in the final two quarters as East Union continued to punish the Wolf Pack (1-3) with the run game. East Union set the tone on its first drive of the half, capping a 12-play, 78-yard series with Alex Alexander’s 3-yard scamper that gave the Lancers a 27-13 lead.
Alexander contributed four rushes for 49 yards and two touchdowns, and Isaiah Sholund rumbled for 66 yards on 11 attempts.
“Huge kudos to the line,” Herrera said. “We hitched a trailer on them and just said, ‘Take us home, baby.’”
East Union did have its issues, committing 13 penalties — 11 in the first half — and four turnovers. The woes began on the game’s first play from scrimmage when Eric Robertson (three rushes, 59 yards; two receptions, 33 yards, TD) picked off a pass for West. The Wolf Pack made it hurt, scoring on Yannick Reffell’s 1-yard quarterback keeper on fourth-and goal.
Late in the half, East Union threatened to expand its 20-13 lead after cornerback Drew Sena reeled in his second interception of the game.
The Lancers started the final drive of the first half on their own 37 with 1:15 to go and got down to the West 25 before going backwards in a hurry thanks to two blocking penalties and a personal foul. Alexander then busted a 61-yard catch-and-run touchdown that was called back by an illegal-man-downfield penalty.
Faced with a third-and-56, Espinosa ran out the clock with a four-yard scramble.
“It just seemed like every other play a flag or something would change the momentum,” Herrera said. “We regrouped at halftime and said, ‘Hey, we’re not changing the game plan.’ There were no adjustments made. We knew what was working and we’re going to keep on doing it. They came out and played football.”
The Lancers know they can’t afford to make these mistakes against Oakdale, a defending VOL co-champion that is ranked No. 13 in Northern California by MaxPreps. The Mustangs (2-1) visit Dino Cunial Field next Friday.
“We have to have a great week of practice starting Monday because we’re dealing with a monster,” Herrera said. “We have to clean up the mistakes. Oakdale is Oakdale, they don’t make a lot of mistakes. We have to be more disciplined.”