RED BLUFF – A week after blasting its rival at home, the Shasta High football team faced a much more difficult task on Friday night.
Taking on a sturdy opponent on the road, the Wolves were without wingback James Weaver, their biggest playmaker.
That didn’t mean Shasta head coach J.C. Hunsaker’s choices were limited when it came to offensive options. Seniors Hunter Pinkston, Bryson Kimp and Jack Reindel all took turns for Shasta while sophomore Braxton Fleming proved the capable understudy, filling in for the star Weaver as the Wolves won 28-7 over the host Spartans.
Kimp contributed 118 yards on 22 carries, Reindel hauled in a 29-yard touchdown reception on fourth-and-16 for Shasta’s first score, and Pinkston seemingly did it all including 77 yards and a TD on eight rushes to go with a pivotal interception that set up the go-ahead score.
“They’re playing hard for each other,” Hunsaker said. “No matter who’s out there, they want to play for each other.”
Coming off a 57-7 shellacking over Enterprise in a game that was over early in the teams’ annual River Bowl series, Shasta (2-1) needed two fourth-quarter scores to secure the victory in a taut affair with a scrappy Spartans’ squad led by dual-threat quarterback Clyde Shaver.
Pinkston punched in his 6-yard touchdown run with 5:40 left in the game, and Michael Traylor managed his second touchdown of the season, this time recovering a fumble in the end zone off an errant snap on a Red Bluff punt with 4:38 remaining.
That finally put away Red Bluff (1-2) despite Shaver flummoxing the Shasta side with a mix of designed runs and scrambles. The quarterback ran for 112 yards on 15 carries, highlighted by a 33-yarder that gave the Spartans a first down on third-and-20 in the third quarter.
“He’s a great athlete,” Pinkston said. “I’ve grown up playing against him. He did a great job, gained some momentum for them.”
The Shasta defense finally found an answer after giving Red Bluff a second chance. A roughing-the-passer penalty negated a stop on fourth-and-11 from the Wolves’ 22 on the first play of the fourth quarter. A fourth-and-5 from the Shasta 6 fared much better for the visitors. Shaver’s throw was high, and the Wolves took over from there with 9:40 left in the game.
A 10-play drive that featured only the ground game was highlighted by Kimp’s longest run of the night at 39 yards and capped by Pinkston’s 6-yard TD.
“The line had a great game for my side. I just ran through it,” Pinkston said.
He did the same on his interception, stepping in front of a quick slant when the Wolves trailed 7-6 with 4:05 left in the first half. That gave Shasta the ball at the Red Bluff 24.
“Pinky is special,” Hunsaker said. “He’s quick. He’s instinctive. He gave us an opportunity.”
Five plays later, Fleming ran it in on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in him,” Hunsaker said of the sophomore, already a starter on defense at strong safety before adding more of an offensive workload with Weaver out.
Pinkston provided the 2-point conversion, catching a Layton Dunlap pass for a 14-7 advantage.
That capped a noteworthy second quarter after the teams played a scoreless first.
Reindel hauled in his 29-yard TD reception on fourth-and-16 as Dunlap threw up a prayer, allowing the wideout a chance to make a play, and he did 17 seconds into the second quarter.
The Spartans had an answer, and it was Shaver. Already showing off his legs with runs of 11 and 12 yards, he then flashed his arm, hitting Caden Sanders after he got behind the Shasta defense for a 39-yard TD catch. Sanders’ extra point gave Red Bluff a 7-6 lead with 8:31 left in the second quarter.
A 31-yard Shaver run gave the Spartans another chance with a minute before halftime, but the Wolves stiffened in time.
“We knew we were in for a battle, and I knew it was going to be tougher without Weaver. We had to do it without one of our studs,” Hunsaker said. “Our defense played tough again.”
Dunlap threw for 75 yards on 5-of-8 passing while Reindel had 41 yards on two catches for Shasta, which is at Foothill for a 6 p.m. contest next Friday.
“Hopefully, we’re all healthy by next week,” Pinkston said, “and we go in rolling and come out with a lot of momentum.”
Shaver completed 5-of-12 passes for 88 yards for Red Bluff. Cooper Bonham had three catches for 39 yards, and Braden Robinson added 39 yards rushing on 13 carries.
The Spartans are at Enterprise for a 6 p.m. game next Friday.