|Undefeated Cougars roll into playoffs
Courchaine sets RC passing mark for touchdowns
Its emotional victory over Cardinal Newman may have left some believing Rancho Cotate High's football team would be vulnerable to a letdown in the Nov. 2 regular season finale against Santa Rosa. Actually, it was more like the Cougars letting up on the Panthers in a 40-0 victory at Cougar Stadium on Senior Night.
The Cougars' starters were interested enough to fashion a 33-0 lead at halftime, which allowed Rancho Cotate coach Ed Conroy to substitute liberally in the second half. The Cougars improved to 10-0, marking the third time under Conroy they have finished a regular season unbeaten. They also claimed the North Bay League championship outright.
The Cougars earned the No. 2 seed in the North Coast Section Div. II playoffs behind Clayton Valley (9-1), champions of the Diablo Valley Athletic League. Rancho Cotate also will have a first-round bye in the playoffs and on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. will host the winner of the first-round game between 4-6 Los Lomas and 6-4 Washington of Fremont.
Senior quarterback Michael Courchaine, before his evening was done after three quarters, threw three touchdown passes to set a new single-season record with 19. Senior running back Jalon Luque continued his stellar season with 169 yards on 16 carries.
Had it chosen to do so, Rancho Cotate could have racked up serious style points by continuing to pour on the points. Conroy, however, opted to clear his bench in the final game. Still, he was happy with how his charges performed before easing up.
"The kids wanted to be 10-0 and didn't want to slip up, but we did treat it like a big game, even though Santa Rosa is struggling a little bit," Conroy said.
Courchaine broke Steve Wdlodarczyk's 41-year-old record with a 3-yard scoring pass to Safala Poti with 1 minute, 56 seconds remaining in the first quarter. He tied the record with a 5-yard scoring pass to Carlos Soto on the Cougars' first possession of the game. A 29-yard scoring pass to Thomas Sory with 39 seconds remaining in the third quarter gave him his 19th of the season.
"The coaches were telling me all week they were going to have me try to break the record tonight," Courchaine said. "It's nice, but I'm happy we're 10-0. That means a lot more to me because I love these guys to death, and 10-0 means a lot more than a little record."
His first two touchdown passes came after the defense gave the Cougars' offense short fields. Freshman Chris Taylor-Yamanoha picked off a pass by Santa Rosa quarterback Daniel Cresta and returned it 11 yards to the 22. Courchaine found Soto four plays later for a 6-0 lead. The Cougars missed the extra-point attempt.
Later in the first, Cresta tried a deep pass, but Soto hauled it in and returned it to the Panthers' 30. But a personal foul penalty moved the ball 15 yards back to the 45. Soto caught his scoring pass nine players later. Again, the Cougars failed on the extra-point attempt, leaving the score at 12-0.
Luque extended the Cougars' lead by scoring from 38 yards out on an option pitch from Courchaine early in the second quarter. Rodrigo Perez's kick upped the Cougars' lead to 19-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers' receiving team the short kick, and Joshua Belda recovered it for the Cougars on the 19. Two players later, Luque burst up the middle and into the end zone from 10 yards out midway through the second quarter. Perez's kick gave the Cougars a 26-0 lead.
Luque again exploited the middle of the Panthers' defense for a 42-yard touchdown with 5:12 remaining in the first half. Perez's kick made it 33-0. Sory found a seam in the middle of the defense and hauled in a well-placed pass by Courchaine. Perez's kick gave Rancho Cotate a 40-0 lead.