Sonora's Evan Bearden shared the Mother Lode League's Most Valuable Player award with Calaveras' John Arbuckle (not pictured).

'Our confidence level was in question.' The players that made Sonora sweat.

James Burns

It looked bleak.

When the Sonora High football team started the season with four straight losses, confidence within the ‘Cat camp was low. Injuries conspired against Sonora, threatening to turn the preseason No. 1 into an also-ran in the Mother Lode League for the first time ever.

“We play that tough schedule to get us ready for league, so that we do well in league,” Sonora coach Bryan Craig said of Oakdale, Ripon, Escalon, Hilmar and West. “But our confidence level coming out of the preseason was in question. We were dealing with some injuries that gave us some uncertainty going into league. Going into every league, we had some concerns.”

Sonora quarterback Jake Gookin was named the Mother Lode League's Outstanding Offensive Player.

The Wildcats (7-5) healed in time, winning their fifth consecutive Mother Lode League title. Sonora has never lost in conference play, a streak that reached 29 games this fall.

“Each one has its thing as to why it’s special,” Craig said. “This one was a little more special, though. When you start 0-4 and suffer the injuries that we did and have the question marks — ‘Is this the year we drop a game in the MLL?’ When you don’t and you run the MLL, it is satisfying because it was extremely hard.”

Sonora rebounded from its slow start with a seven-game winning streak, including a thrilling 28-27 victory over Foothill of Sacramento in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs.

Senior Evan Bearden, who recently committed to UC Davis, was named the Mother Lode League co-MVP, sharing the honor with Calaveras’ John Arbuckle.

Here’s a look at the rest of the MLL’s major award winners and all-conference selections:

Most Valuable Player: Evan Bearden, Sonora; John Arbuckle, Calaveras

Outstanding Lineman: Garrett Anderson, Sonora

Outstanding Offensive Player: Jake Gookin, Sonora

Outstanding Defensive Player: Logan Weatherby, Calaveras

First team: Ryan Kraft, QB, Bret Harte; Mason Flores, RB, Argonaut; Caleb Sulusi, RB, Amador; Gus Gedney, WR, Amador; Inigo Baxter, OL, Amador; Jon Sherrill, OL, Argonaut; Austin Shoemaker, OL, Calaveras; Cameron Trail, OL, Summerville; Mark Camara, OL, Sonora; Andrew Savage, TE, Calaveras; Nash Wylie, LB, Amador; Cole Kerrigan, LB, Argonaut; Tristan Hagstrom, LB, Sonora; Donovin Giangregorio, LB, Calaveras; Jake Green, LB, Argonaut; Karson Clifton, LB, Sonora; Tres Machado, DL, Summerville; Josh Sober, DL, Argonaut; Kia McKinney, DL, Calaveras; Elijah MacDonald, DL, Sonora; Bryan Wynn, DB, Sonora; Kade Overly, DB, Calaveras; Dalton Cuneo, DB, Sonora; Jeremy Mendoza, DB, Argonaut; Wyatt Elmore, K, Argonaut.

Second team: Amador — Jacob Schultz, Lance Demanuellan, Darian Nelson, Clint Lyman, Wes Villereal. Argonaut — Nick Porter, Derek Weart, Cesar Lopez, Drew Davie. Bret Harte — Camron Silva, Ryan Miguel, Danny Scott, Emmanual Naua, Micah Paulson. Calaveras — Juan Lopez, Jared Biondi, Clayton Moore. Sonora — Devon Battle, Gabe Milborn, Rueben Mezies, Mike McKernon. Summerville — Octavian Hernandez, Markus Warnock, Mike Litzler, Justin Roberts, Jordan Craddock.

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