HALLSVILLE — It wasn't easy, and it wasn't pretty, but California found a way to win.
After dropping a pair of close games the past two weeks, the Pintos found themselves in a similar situation Friday night in Hallsville.
Thanks to a stout and opportunistic defense, California flipped the script on its way to a 6-0 win.
"The kids needed this one," California coach Marty Albertson said. "It had to do a lot for them mentally. I still don't think we played really well tonight, but we won. If you can play ugly and win, that's a good thing."
The Pintos needed only six points in large part because they forced that same number of turnovers defensively — four interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
The game's lone score came on the second play of the fourth quarter when California's Jacob Wolken hit Alex Meisenheimer on a 7-yard touchdown pass. A 31-yard completion from Wolken to Luke Freeman highlighted the drive, and was the longest play of the game for either side.
Wolken finished the day 6-for-17 passing for 66 yards and one pick. He spread the ball around to five different receivers. On the ground, the junior had 74 yards on 20 carries.
In the first half, the only sustained drive came from the Indians, who had the ball inside the 10-yard line early in the second quarter.
However, the Pintos' first and most important takeaway came on that series when senior lineman Dylan Silvey broke through the line to force a fumble with a hit on Hallsville's DQ Smith. Jacob Adams recovered the fumble and the Indians never sniffed the red zone for the rest of the game.
Kyle Hofstetter corralled California's biggest interception. The junior clinched the win when he picked off Zane Parnell's pass with under two minutes left in the game.
Meisenheimer, Freeman and Kyle Riley had the other three picks for the Pintos. Hallsville's interception came via Jadon Kilpack midway through the third.
The game's leading rusher was California's Cory Friedmeyer, who racked up 81 yards on 17 carries. Smith led the Indians with 76 yards on 17 attempts.
Both teams are now 2-4 and with the win, California improved to 2-2 in Tri-County Conference play while Hallsville dropped to 0-4 in the conference.
The Pintos will head to Southern Boone next week while the Indians will play host to Warsaw.