By Nick Giannandrea
For College of the Sequoias Athletics
Joe D'Agostino has stressed local recruiting since taking over as College of the Sequoias' head football coach.
Several of those local recruits played crucial roles in the Giants' dramatic 30-24 season-opening overtime victory over Feather River on Sept. 7 at Giant Chevrolet and Cadillac Mineral King Bowl.
D'Agostino, in his second season as COS' head coach, received key performances from:
* Dinuba's Gus Villareal, who passed for 374 yards and three touchdowns.
* Tulare's Bryson Allen and Selma's Sergio Pena, who combined for 10 receptions for 232 yards and two touchdowns.
* Springville's Judah Ruckman, who had team-leading totals of 11 1/2 tackles and two sacks.
* Fresno's Noah Beuker, who had 9 1/2 tackles.
* Tulare Western's Anthony Cervantes, who had 5 1/2 tackles and a key pass breakup.
* Fresno's Bobby Peele, who had a 46-yard interception return.
* Lemoore's Noah Wright, who had three tackles, including one for a loss.
* Hanford's Jupri Hughes, who forced a fumble.
And it was three consecutive plays made by Tulare County-products Ruckman and Cervantes that allowed COS to escape with the victory.
Clinging to a six-point lead during Feather River's first possession in overtime, Ruckman, along with Marcos Moran, brought Golden Eagles running back Josh Malnoske down for a 2-yard loss on second-and-goal from the COS 8-yard line.
Ruckman then sacked Feather River quarterback Jalen Dummett for a 1-yard loss on third down.
Cervantes brought the game to an end when he batted away a pass intended for Jimmy Allen in the back corner of the end zone.
COS rallied from an eight-point deficit in the final 7 minutes to force overtime.
After the Golden Eagles went ahead 24-16 on Dummett's 2-yard touchdown run with 7:01 left, the Giants responded with an eight-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 20-yard touchdown pass from Villareal to Marc Jean-Louis with 3:41 to play in regulation. COS tied the score on a two-point conversion pass from Villareal to Allen.
Peele intercepted a pass launched from the COS 48-yard line on the final play of regulation to force overtime.
The Giants went ahead during their first possession of overtime on a 3-yard touchdown run by Davonte Green, but left the door open for Feather River to win with a touchdown and successful conversion after their point-after kick was blocked by Jeno Bins.
COS fell behind 10-0 following a 35-yard field goal by Chysen Lagunes-Rapo in the first quarter and a 1-yard scoring run by Dummett in the second.
But the Giants rallied to tie it 10-10 by halftime as Dominic Hernandez (Tulare Western) converted a 25-yard field goal, and Villareal connected with Allen on an 88-yard touchdown pass.
Feather River went ahead 17-10 in the third quarter on a 32-yard scoring run by Dummett, who finished with 126 yards on 19 carries.
COS closed to 17-16 early in the fourth quarter on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Villareal to Pena, and a failed extra point kick.
Villareal, returning to the Giants' lineup after redshirting last season, completed 24 of 38 passes, connecting with 10 different receivers. Villareal also rushed for a team co-leading 63 yards on 19 attempts. Green rushed for 63 yards on 14 carries.
The Giants return to action Sept. 14 at Chabot. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Chabot opened with a 26-3 loss at Shasta.
COS' next home game is set for Sept. 28 against Santa Rosa. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
COS rode a combined 19 kills from Christa Pilgrim to a pair of wins at the Modesto Classic on Sept. 6.
Pilgrim, a sophomore from Mission Oak, delivered nine kills during the Giants' 25-20, 25-20, 25-27, 26-24 victory over the host Pirates in their first match of the day.
Hazel Martinez (Mission Oak) contributed a team-leading 12 kills against Modesto, while COS also received five kills apiece from Madison Sousa (Hanford West), Mikayla Grimes (Edison), and Karen Rodriguez (Kingsburg), 23 assists and 10 digs from Sydney Guinn (Exeter), 16 assists from Kia Campbell (Coalinga) and 18 digs from Alexis Carmona (Madera).
Pilgrim's 10 kills lead the Giants over Lassen in their second match, 25-13, 25-10, 25-9.
Rodriguez, Teagan Daugherty (Tulare Union) and Jillian Nyberg (Redwood) all have five kills against the Cougars, while Guinn and Campbell each had 10 assists and Carmona contributed seven digs.
The Giants (6-3) have the week off as they prepare to launch Central Valley Conference play Sept. 18 at West Hills-Coalinga. COS plays at home for the first time Sept. 20 when it hosts Porterville at Porter Field House in a match set to start at 6 p.m.
Reigning All-American Ismael Ramirez (Redwood) got his sophomore season off to a strong start by placing second at the Fresno Invitational on Sept. 7 at Woodward Park.
Ramirez, who placed eighth individually at the state championship meet last season, crossed the finish line in 21:05.0, trailing only Mt. SAC's Isaiah Wilson (20:54.4).
The Giants, who placed 13th as a team with 354 points, also received top 30 finishes from Oscar Perez (Dinuba) and Cristobal Vasquez (Lindsay). Perez was 16th in 21:28.9, while Vasquez was 29th in 21:50.0.
Evan Loftin (El Diamante) was 42nd in 22:04.9 and Zackary Woods (Frontier) was 44th in 22:06.5 to round out COS' top five finishers.
On the women's side, Courtney Santos (Hanford West) placed 71st in 22:44.6.
The Giants next race is set for Sept. 21 at Cal State San Bernardino.
Jose Cardenas (Delano) had a goal and an assist in the first half to help COS tie L.A. Mission 2-2 on Sept. 6 in Los Angeles.
Cardenas contributed an assist on a goal by Cesar Melgar (Monache) goal as the Giants (0-1-1) went up 1-0.
Cardenas then scored off an assist from Christopher Romo (Tulare Union) to put COS ahead 2-0 at halftime.
Mission (0-2-2) received two second-half goals from Diego Xol to force the tie.
The Giants' next match is set for Sept. 13 at Antelope Valley, starting at 4 p.m. They next home match is 4 p.m. Sept. 17 against Bakersfield at Riverway Sports Park.
COS was limited to one shot on goal during a 1-0 loss at Bakersfield on Sept. 6.
The Renegades (1-2-0) got their only goal in the first half.
Goalkeeper Ciana Koo (Woodlake) made eight saves for the Giants (1-1-1).
COS travels to Sacramento City on Sept. 10 and plays its next home match on its campus field at 4 p.m. Sept. 13 against Cuesta.