WARSAW, Mo. — After falling behind early in each of its first two games, California hadn't yet gotten the chance to showcase its run game entering Week 3.
That changed Friday night against Warsaw.
The Pintos (1-2) forged an early 7-0 lead and kept the run game rolling all night on their way to a 33-7 win against the Wildcats (0-3) in what was a Tri-County Conference opener for both teams.
"I thought we did a lot better on the offensive line," California coach Marty Albertson said. "We found some things and when we went to the wishbone and had three backs in there, we started blowing some linebackers out."
The Pintos racked up 268 yards on the ground through a four-man rushing attack. Quarterback Jacob Wolken led the way with 125 yards, which included a 23-yard score on the first series of the second half.
Running back Cory Friedmeyer consistently gashed the Warsaw defense, finishing with 86 yards on 15 carries. Friedmeyer opened the game's scoring with a 3-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter.
After Wolken's touchdown scramble put the Pintos up 20-7 in the third quarter, the California offense didn't do anything fancy. Everything was straight ahead.
Sophomore Dakota Henry tallied 42 yards on nine carries, while senior fullback Sam Kirby had 15 yards on the ground, including a pair of 1-yard scores in the fourth.
With the running game firing on all cylinders, the Pintos didn't drop back much against the Wildcats. Wolken finished 5-for-12 passing with 67 yards and a pick. Friedmeyer was California's leading receiver, finishing with 33 yards on two catches.
Wolken's contributions extended to the defensive side of the ball as well. Midway through the second quarter in a tie game, he snagged an errant pass from Warsaw quarterback Matt Luebbert and took it the other way for a 72-yard touchdown.
"I saw Jackson (Trachsel) squeezed down and had him wrapped up, so I was floating back to see what the quarterback was going to do," Wolken said. "I just waited for him and once he laid up the ball, I just made a play on it."
Trachsel, a senior defensive end, was able to continually pressure Luebbert throughout the night. The Pintos also benefited from a scheme change at linebacker. The quartet of Wolken, Kirby, Jacob Adams and Kyle Riley held Warsaw in check for the most part.
Wolken also recovered a fumble on the Wildcats' opening series of the game. California's defense allowed Warsaw's Keegan Glenn to run for 97 yards and Luebbert to total 66 on the ground, but the Pintos kept both out of the end zone.
"We bent a little bit, but we didn't break," Albertson said. "I thought that was important because this team has been scoring some points. Basically our defense shut them out, so that was pretty impressive."
Warsaw's only points came when Trenton Simons returned a kickoff for a touchdown immediately following California's opening score.
After finishing with a 6-1 mark in Tri-County play a year ago, the Pintos have aspirations to again contend for a conference title.
Beating Warsaw is a step in the right direction for California, and the team will use it as a blueprint for continued success in the conference.
"If you can run the ball like this against anybody, you want to do it," Albertson said. "We didn't have to throw much tonight and we'll have to be more balanced down the road, but if you get the running game going, it opens up the pass."
For California's backs going forward, the goal is simple — fix the mistakes and make the strengths stronger.
"We know what we need to fix and what works better for us," Friedmeyer said. "We just have to keep improving on our mistakes all the time."