Windsor wins a battle with American Canyon in Division 3 semifinals

“We definitely like to make it interesting, but I think just shows a lot about the team we have.” - Windsor Head Coach DJ Sexton.|

American Canyon didn’t make it easy, but Windsor is heading back to a section title game for the second straight season.

The second-seeded Jaguars got a few timely plays late in the fourth quarter to hold off the third-seeded Wolves 35-34 in Friday night’s North Coast Section Division 3 semifinal at Windsor High School

The Jaguars (10-2) advance to play top-seeded El Cerrito (12-0) next Friday at Benicia High School for the Division 3 title.

“We definitely like to make it interesting, but I think just shows a lot about the team we have,” Windsor head coach DJ Sexton said. “It doesn’t really matter what the score is, doesn’t really matter the scenario of the game — they just keep playing and keep fighting for 48 minutes.”

Here’s how Friday’s NCS game went down.

Clutch plays

Friday’s game was decided by two specific plays in the fourth quarter. The first was a stop on a potential two-point try following an American Canyon touchdown with about five minutes left in the game.

American Canyon (8-4), which matched Windsor score for score all night, had capped off a 12-play, 69-yard scoring drive with an 11-yard touchdown from quarterback Kaleb Anderson to cut a seven-point deficit to one at 35-34. The Wolves were backed up a few yard by a penalty but still elected to go for two and the lead.

Windsor brought a blitz, but Kaleb Anderson lofted a pass to running back Kapono Liu in an open field — and he was immediately met by Windsor sophomore Hayden Anderson, who stopped him in his tracks with a bone-crunching hit.

“We had nobody on that running back,” Sexton said. “If they didn’t swing that back to Hayden’s side, we probably would have been down by a point and having to go score there. Great football players make big-time plays in big-time games and, as you can see, Hayden did it again tonight.”

The other clutch play was the eventual game-clincher on Windsor’s ensuing drive. Facing a fourth-and-inches at American Canyon’s 26 with about a minute and a half left, quarterback Judson Anderson converted on a short run to get the first down and let the Jaguars kneel out the clock.

“We knew the game was going to come down to our line,” said the junior quarterback, who passed for 168 yards with two scores on 12-of-19 attempts. “We feel that we have the best line in the county, maybe the section — we’ll see Friday, I guess — but we knew the line would win us the game and we put the game in the line’s hands.”

Offense galore

While the game had gotten off to a bit of a slow start — Windsor led 7-0 after one — both teams’ powerful offenses woke up in a big way starting in the second quarter.

With Windsor leading 7-6 early in the frame, the Jaguars faced a fourth-and-21 from their own 12 on the heels of American Canyon’s first score. The hosts looked to punt, but Hayden Anderson took matters into his own hands. Instead of kicking, which Sexton said had been his play call, Hayden saw an opening and took off for an 88-yard touchdown.

Wyatt Morris added a 39-yard touchdown run to cap Windsor’s next drive before Judson Anderson hit Gunnar Erickson for a 67-yard catch-and-run score just before the half. Morris finished with 71 rushing yards on 10 carries with a score, while Erickson had a career-high 113 yards on six catches with a score.

To their credit, American Canyon never fell far behind, answering each Windsor score with one of their own. At the half, Windsor led 27-22.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Wolves opened the fourth with a go-ahead 39-yard touchdown run from Kaleb Anderson to make it 28-27. But on the very first play of Windsor’s ensuing drive, Hayden Anderson found a seam and took off for a 69-yard score. He finished with 166 rushing yards on four carries with two scores and had a receiving touchdown in the first quarter.

“I think ‘impressed’ would be an understatement,” Sexton said of his sophomore star. “… I don’t know what to say about him. He keeps getting better every game.”

Both teams finished with nearly identical yards of total offense: American Canyon with 447 and Windsor with 444.

with 444.

The Wolves were paced by Kaleb Anderson, who ran for 116 yards with three scores on 10 carries and went 9-for-14 in the air for 135 yards, and Liu, who had 152 yards on 27 carries with two touchdowns.

“That’s a great football team over there and they played their butts off, but our guys kept fighting, kept digging and we were able to pull it out on top,” Sexton said.

Title game

Windsor will face arguably its toughest challenge of the season next week in undefeated El Cerrito (12-0), which has allowed just 62 points all season and advanced to the finals with a 47-6 win over No. 5 seed Northgate on Friday.

“It’s going to be a big-time challenge for us, but if there’s a team that can do it, I think we have the guys to do it,” Sexton said.

That game will be at Benicia High School on Friday at 7 p.m.

You can reach Press Democrat Staff Writer Gus Morris at 707-304-9372 or On Twitter @JustGusPD.

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