Foothill High’s Jayden Gordon runs the ball against Shasta during Friday night’s Redding Rancheria Game of the Week. Gordon accounted for six touchdowns in the win. (Photo by Mike Daly)
Well, “Redding” belongs to the Cougars in 2018.
Foothill scored on all but three drives and added a defensive touchdown as dual-threat quarterback Jayden Gordon accounted for 298 yards and six touchdowns in a 49-20 home rout of Shasta Friday night in the Redding Rancheria Game of the Week at Bill Johnson Community Stadium.
“It almost feels empowering; we’re at the top of the top,” Foothill junior Brandon Merryman said. “We’re friends with all of these guys but when we’re on the field it’s another game.”
Before the game, the Shasta and Foothill captains each carried out their No. 8 jersey to the coin toss to honor Tyson Wacker, a 16-year-old varsity football player at West Valley who died Monday after being injured while crashing his car into a tree driving on Ronda Road in Cottonwood. There was a moment of silence before the game in his honor.
The River Bowl letdown from Shasta (2-4 EAL, 3-6) was evident before Foothill (3-2 EAL, 5-4) ran three plays. Bryce Henderson took the handoff on the first play 82 yards to the Shasta 8 and Gordon ran over a defender at the goal line on the next play for a score. Seven plays into Shasta’s next drive and Gordon picked up a Alec Meek fumble and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown and a quick 14-0 lead.
“You can’t ignore the energy we have possessed on other Friday nights wasn’t here,” Shasta head coach JC Hunsaker said. “That’s on me to have them more energetic and passionate. I knew we would be down a little but I was hoping it was focus and Foothill punched us quick and often on both sides of the ball and they earned everything they got tonight.”
Shasta scored on its third possession as Bryson Kimp bullied his over the goal line on a 2-yard run. It took Foothill a little longer to answer but Gordon fired a strike to Merryman in the corner of the end zone on a 15-yard TD and a 21-6 lead.
But Gordon wasn’t done. He sacked Brian Kilgore for an 11-yard loss and Shasta later turned it over on downs. Five plays later it was Gordon dropping in a 15-yard passing touchdown to Chris Ostergren for a commanding three-score lead going into halftime.
Gordon finished the game 8 for 14 passing for 159 yards and three scores and rushed 13 times for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
“This kid could have the biggest ego in the world but he doesn’t,” Foothill head coach Joey Brown said. “He doesn’t act like it’s the Jayden Gordon show and that makes him so much more of a leader.”
Shasta moved the ball on offense coming out of half. Brayden Coon ripped off a 66-yard run and runs from James Weaver up the middle and on sweeps put the Wolves into scoring position. But Foothill’s defense stiffened up on four straight plays from inside the 3 and Coon was ruled short of the goal line by inches while falling forward toward the touchdown.
“I’m not too upset with our run game, we just didn’t finish drives,” said Hunsaker about the offense, which had two 100-yard rushers in Coon (106 yards) and Weaver with a team-best 113 yards.
Foothill needed four plays to go 99 yards and Gordon kept it and raced for an 84-yard touchdown down the right sideline for a 35-6 advantage with 4:29 left in the third.
The Wolves threatened early in the fourth following Weaver’s 6-yard touchdown run. Tony DeBlasio scooped up a Gordon fumble and ran it back for a touchdown to make it 35-20. But Gordon’s response was loud and clear – he wasn’t letting the Cougars lose at home.
He rolled out and connected with Merryman on an 8-yard score to go up 42-20 and Merryman picked off Kilgore for the second time on the Wolves next play from scrimmage. Starting at midfield, the Cougars marched in nine plays – all runs – before Henderson put the finishing touches on the game with a 7-yard scoring run.
“We’re underdogs around here and we knew that if we could pound these guys like we did then we knew we were going to be the best team around here,” Gordon said.
Henderson rushed for a game-high 151 yards on 17 carries while Merryman caught four passes for 60 yards and two scores in addition to his two interceptions. Ostergren had 59 yards on two catches.
Foothill locks up a home playoff game, likely against Shasta in two weeks on the same field. The Wolves are essentially preparing for the next two weeks for that game.
“We have to play passionate football with our backs against the wall,” Hunsaker said. “It’s going to be ‘who are you right now when there are 48 minutes left in your football career, and we’ll see if we helped those young men grow as young men.”
Team EAL, Overall
Paradise 5-0, 8-1
Chico 4-1, 8-1
PV 4-1, 6-3
Foothill 3-2, 5-4
Shasta 2-4, 3-6
Enterprise 0-5, 1-8
Red Bluff 0-5, 1-8