|Cougars run over Windsor
Mefferd throws for 3 TDs in 43-11 win; Ukiah next for RC
Rancho Cotate High’s football team washed away the stench of its debacle the week before in American Canyon by thumping Windsor 43-14 on Sept. 27 at Cougar Stadium. More importantly, the psyche-healing victory came in the North Bay League opener for the defending league champion.
Another notable byproduct of the Cougars’ win was sophomore quarterback Gunner Mefferd establishing a passing rhythm and avoiding the gut-churning mistakes that doomed the Cougars against American Canyon. Mefferd completed 11 of 17 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns against Windsor.
“It was important for our confidence to come back tonight,” Mefferd said. “Tonight, you’ve got to give all credit to the offensive line and defense. It took us awhile, a couple of practices to put that game with American Canyon behind us. But our confidence is back up there now, and we’re 1-0 in league. That’s all that matters right now.”
Rancho Cotate, 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the NBL, will host Ukiah tonight at 7:30 p.m. in its second league encounter. The Wildcats enter the game at 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the NBL, having lost last week to Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa 35-7.
Cougars coach Ed Conroy said the coaching staff scaled back the playbook and pretty much returned to basics. That meant a heavy dose of the running game, which Malik Newton spearheaded by rushing for 106 yards. Rancho Cotate finished with 223 yards rushing, which opened up more passing windows for Mefferd.
“He threw the ball pretty well,” Conroy said of Mefferd. “Even on the throws he missed, he was real close. And the kids made great plays for him. He made good decisions, and that was the most important. Another thing I was really happy about was he ran the veer real well.”
Rancho Cotate set the tone early, marching 68 yards in 13 plays and chewing 6 minutes, 45 seconds off the clock for a touchdown on the game’s opening drive. Tanoa Peleti, who started the drive with a 19-yard run up the gut, ended the drive by powering into the end zone from 1 yard out. Mefferd was 3-for-3 passing on the drive for 33 yards. Kevin Nguyen’s extra-point kick gave the Cougars a 7-0 lead.
“I thought it was good to score on the first drive,” Conroy said. “We let our offensive line and running backs to a little more work. It felt great to score, especially on a sustained drive.”
Rancho Cotate traveled 70 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown on their second possession, which carried into the early part of the second quarter. Malik Newton raced into the end zone from 20 yards out, taking advantage of the downfield blocking of Chris Taylor-Yamanoha. The extra-point by Nguyen put the Cougars up 14-0.
With momentum on the side of the Cougars, Windsor’s Shane Swenson quelled it a bit by returning the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. A missed extra point kept the score at 14-6.
Joey Trono regained a two-touchdown lead for the Cougars by latching onto a middle screen pass from Mefferd and weaving through the Jaguars’ defense for a 38-yard touchdown with 9:21 remaining in the second quarter. Mefferd and Taylor-Yamanoha made the key play of the drive on a 31-yard completion on a third-and-13 play.
Rancho Cotate extended its lead to 29-6 when Mefferd found Taylor-Yamanoha in the back left corner of the end zone for a touchdown on a perfectly thrown fade pattern with 48.6 seconds left in the first half. The score capped a four-play 29-yard drive that was set up when Alex Orduna sacked Windsor quarterback Colin McAlvain and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Steven DeSouza.
The Jaguars went 62 yards in 12 plays on the opening drive of the third quarter for a touchdown, a 4-yard pass from McAlvaine to Matt Basich on a fourth-down play. A two-point conversion cut Rancho Cotate’s lead to 29-14.
And after holding the Cougars without a first down on the ensuing possession, the Jaguars seemed poised to turn it into a one-score game as they moved from their 32 to the Cougars’ 39. At the time, McAlvaine was picking apart the Cougars’ defense with short passes.
But Rancho Cotate’s Michael Ross made a play that made a big difference. Not only did he sack McAlvaine, he also stripped the ball causing a fumble, which Evan Kyorkian scooped up and returned 52 yards for a touchdown. Nguyen’s extra point pushed the Cougars’ lead to 36-14 with 3:13 left in the third.
A 24-yard pass from Mefferd to Trono in the fourth quarter was the game’s final score.