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Silverado opens season with shutout of Mojave

Finally, a lightning strike on the football field matched the flashes that could be seen in the sky at Silverado High on Friday night.

The host Skyhawks struck in the final minute of the second quarter to break a scoreless tie, converted a two-point pass, and let the defense do the rest in a 21-0 season-opening, nonleague victory over Mojave.

Silverado’s 34-yard scoring play came on first down after the Rattlers (0-1) had a punt go into the wind and blow back behind the line of scrimmage. Skyhawks quarterback Christian Baltodano laid a ball up for Tyreese Newsome-Johnson, who made the catch and fought his way into the front for the only points Silverado would need.

Baltodano then found Anthony Bugay for the two-point conversion pass that gave Silverado (1-0) an 8-0 advantage at halftime.

“We were running the ball a lot,” Newsome-Johnson said. “So we decided to go long and catch them by surprise. I saw the ball coming, felt the corner off my shoulder, got it and dove for the touchdown.”

The game marked something of an end to a whirlwind summer for Silverado second-year coach Randall Cunningham, who spent the first part of August in Rio de Janiero watching his daughter compete in the Olympics.

“People asked me how I coached from down there,” Cunningham said. “I just prayed. Then to come back and get the victory.”

The Skyhawks added two second-half rushing touchdowns, one each in the third and fourth quarter.

Baltodano made it 14-0 with 1:24 left in the third, finishing off a nine-play, 35-yard drive (after another short Mojave punt) with a 3-yard TD run. C.J. Liana completed the scoring with 7:07 left in the game, bulling his way in from 4 yards out to complete a four-play, 14-yard drive.

But it was that score at the end of the first half that turned things around after a sluggish first half in which the teams combined for 56 total yards of offense. Silverado had 33 of those yards, one less than its scoring play, due to several big losses on bad snaps during the half.

That play, Baltodano to Newsome-Johnson, came with 31 seconds left in the second quarter to get the Skyhawks on top.

“It was so windy early,” Cunningham said.”We couldn’t run a lot of our offense. So we went conservative.”

Keikiokalan Misipeka was the main recipient of that plan, and he finished with a game-high 66 yards rushing for Silverado. But when the wind died down toward the end of the half, Cunningham decided to try a deep ball.

“Because we couldn’t throw earlier,” Cunningham said. “We wanted to let Christian air one out.”

It worked, and the Skyhawks got the 2016 season off to successful start with an August win even before they start school on Monday.

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