This week we had squeakers and Mustangs as the Redwood Empire hosted a state game of the week. The Middletown Mustangs, No. 5 in the state in Division V, came down from the valley behind Mount St. Helena, past The Geysers and pranced into Cloverdale for a match-up in the nest of a hungry Eagles bunch.
Cloverdale cut the lead to 21-18 in the second half, but Middletown stayed strong for a 28-18 triumph. Quarterback Cody Smith passed for 188 yards and two touchdowns and running back Steven Rodriquez scored on an 11-yard run in the game's final two minutes. The Mustang defense came up big when needed, forcing a Cloverdale punt from it's own end zone with less than three minutes remaining. Five plays later, Rodriquez' 11-yard run sealed Middletown's victory.
Super Seven Rankings and Summaries
1) Eureka (5-0) -- It's looking more and more like College of the Redwoods will be one of the venues for this year's NCS 3A Redwood Empire playoffs as Eureka took a giant step on the path to the No. 1 seed. In this week's first squeaker, the Loggers prevailed with an exciting come from behind 26-23 victory over Napa in the wine country. Napa was a team that was good enough the week before to beat Bay Area power Hayward.
According to Loggers' coach Jack Lakin, quarterback Josh Larsen flashed back to Y.A. Title and Mo Purify made like R.C. Owens to key the win. With the clock running and just 11 seconds remaining, and on fourth down, Purify used his 6-5 frame to go over two defenders for the "Alley Oop." The rest is history. Fortuna looms in two weeks. If I can find lodging (hint..hint), I might travel to Log Country for that one. Breakfast at the Samoa Roadhouse...I can see the flapjacks in my dreams.
2) Analy, Sebastopol (5-0) -- Fortuna had the buzz saws out and cut the Tigers offense to kitty litter, but Analy escaped before Fortuna could turn them into matches. A 6-0 margin is pretty slim, but coach Mike Moreda and his troops are a tough bunch who so far this season have come up with the plays and executed them to win. Analy got out of town with squeaker number two.
3) Cardinal Newman, Santa Rosa (5-0) -- The big news in this game was that Santa Rosa finally scored this season. The Cardinals still rolled 54-6. This week, Newman hosts Ukiah, who played to a deadlock with Montgomery. This will be one of the featured games of the week.
4) Marin Catholic, Kentfield (4-1) -- This could almost be called the mother of all squeakers as Redwood gave Marin Catholic all it could handle and more, dominating the line of scrimmage, seemingly passing the ball at will and leading for all but the last 13 seconds of the game, before falling to the Wildcats (4-1, 3-0 in MCAL play), 23 -20, in a game that Marin Catholic junior running back Khalil Bell called "the toughest game of my life."
With 28 seconds to play and Marin Catholic trailing 20-17 with no time-outs left, quarterback Jim Collins found wide receiver Ryan Chisholm over the middle for a 14-yard completion to the Giants' 10-yard line. By the time the officials got the ball spotted and with coaches yelling for Collins to spike the ball, it appeared to everyone that the spike would be the only way for the Wildcats to regroup for a chance to make two attempts at the end zone or set-up for a game-tying field goal. Instead, first year Marin Catholic and former Riordan coach Ken Peralta called Bell's number and the hard nosed runner surprised everyone by taking the handoff from Collins and streaking around the right side and into the end zone for the winning touchdown. The score capped a 16-play, 80-yard drive that ate up most of the last seven minutes of the game.
Bell also scored earlier in the fourth quarter on a 6-yard plunge that capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive as Marin Catholic wiped out 20-9 deficit after three quarters. For the game, Bell finished with 25 carries for 135 yards and two TD's plus a run for a two-pt conversion. Senior tight end Ryan Nestor also had an excellent game for the Wildcats, pulling in four balls for 45 yards and a TD. Jake Merrill booted a 33-yard filed goal to round out the Wildcat scoring. Merrill also ran the ball well from his fullback position, carrying 15 times for 81 yards.
Redwood (3-2 2-2 in MCAL play), for its part, protected quarterback Coulter Mulligan well enough for the lanky signal caller to complete 12 of 17 for 157 yards and two TDs with one picked of by the Wildcats, who also sacked Mulligan three times.
Marin Catholic got the scare of its lives and Redwood certainly played well enough to win. Both teams should learn big-time lessons from this one. Next up for the Wildcats is a pass-happy but winless Drake squad. This one is off the board.
5) Casa Grande, Petaluma (4-1) -- At this point of the season, the loss to Novato in Week 1 is no more than a blip on the radar screen. Coach Rick O'Brien and the fine coaching staff he has assembled have to be pleased with the way the Gauchos are playing at this point of the season.
Last Friday night, Casa Grande senior quarterback Pet Pezet took matters completely into his own hands, accounting for three Gaucho touchdowns as Casa Grande improved to 4-1 (2-0 in Sonoma County League) with a 34-14 victory over the Windsor Jaguars.
It didn't take long for Pezet to light up the scoreboard. Showing tailback speed, he outran several Jaguar defenders and took the opening kick-off 93 yards to the delight of the standing-room only crowd. His other two touchdowns were on a pair of 10-yard scampers around the right side and mammoth 6-5, 310-pound offensive tackle Joe Zusin. For the evening, Pezet carried the ball 11 times for 64 yards. Matt Hinds also had a big night for the Gauchos, accounting for the other two TDs on a four-yard halfback option pass and a five-yard run.
On defense, Casa Grande used multiple blitzes to hurry, harass and sack Jaguar quarterback Billy Hughes three times. Hughes, nonetheless, completed 15 of 35 passes for 204 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
"I would have liked to throw the ball a little more," smiled Casa's personable Pezet, when asked what else he possibly could have done to lead his team to the homecoming victory. The hotly recruited 5-10, 175-pound Pezet, whom coach O'Brien called "the best athlete on the team," is reportedly a hotter baseball prospect than football. Although schools like Princeton and Harvard have inquired about Pezet and his almost 4.0 GPA, the St. Mary's baseball program may have the inside track on landing this gem.
Next up for the Gauchos is a trip up Highway 101 to Healdsburg to face a Hound team fresh off a much needed win against El Molino. No offense to Healdsburg, but the Gauchos would appear to be at least a 10-point favorite, even on the road. I'm licking my chops thinking about the season finale against Analy in a game no one in the Redwood Empire should miss.
6T) Montgomery, Santa Rosa (3-1-1) -- A 17-17 tie with Ukiah did nothing to re-establish the Vikings as the team to beat in this year's 3A Redwood Empire division football roller coaster ride.
6T) Novato (3-2) -- The Hornets led 14-7 at halftime in their home game against a strong and big Vintage of Napa. Unfortunately, mistakes were once again the undoing of coach Travis Brackett's squad. Three early second half turnovers led to a 24-14 loss.
On the Bubble
8) Ferndale (5-0) -- The Wildcats just keep on truckin, and a run of the table could mean a No. 1 state Division V finish, but it's not likely current No. 1 Central Catholic is going to lose.
(9) Fortuna (3-2) -- The Huskies gave Analy everything it could handle in falling 6-0. Look for this team to be there at the end in the 2A chase. It's starting to look like a possible match-up with Marin Catholic.
10) Piner, Santa Rosa (4-1) -- Prospectors should move to 5-1 against hapless Santa Rosa...then the tough games begin.
11) Redwood, Larkspur (3-2) -- Giants had a major meltdown in the fourth quarter against rival Marin Catholic, allowing two 80-yard touchdown drives. This week, they visit Kezar Stadium in San Francisco in an almost must win situation against Sacred Heart Cathedral.
12) Ukiah (2-2-1) - The Wildcats losses and their tie were all against rated teams. Injuries and sickness have created havoc this season. This week, they get a chance to show they are for real against Cardinal Newman.
13) Justin-Siena, Napa (4-1) -- Potent Brave offense proved too much for Tamalpais as Justin-Siena continues to challenge for the Marin County League crown with a 29-14 win on the road in Mill Valley. Next up is a Friday night home game against Terra Linda. I may check this game out.
Editor's Note: Harold Abend is in his first year as a Cal-Hi Sports correspondent from the Redwood Empire. Previously, he has been the correspondent from the San Diego Section. Abend also has served as a media relations consultant for the CIF state office for many years.