Botched PAT dooms   Rancho Cotate rally
Cardinal Newman scores 35 straight points, holds off furious Cougars’ comeback
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By Dave Williams  November 8, 2013 12:00 am

One lesson Rancho Cotate High’s football team learned in the most painful way on Nov. 1 is how the little things can make the difference between winning and losing.

After battling back from a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter against Cardinal Newman in Santa Rosa, the Cougars had a chance to tie the game and possibly send it to overtime with less than 3 minutes remaining. But the Cougars botched the extra-point attempt and fell one point short, 42-41, in a game that saw extreme swings of momentum.

The Cougars, 3-3 in the NBL and 5-4 overall, finish the regular season on the road tonight at Santa Rosa High against the Panthers. A victory over the Pumas should get the Cougars into the North Coast Section Div. II playoffs as a low seed.

“You never know with the playoffs,” Rancho Cotate coach Ed Conroy said. “There was one year I thought we’d be in the middle but we wound up with like the 14th or 15th seed. They’re only taking 12-14 teams this year, so we might not get in.”

Based on the way the Cougars performed in defeat against Newman, they’d be a solid addition to the playoffs, especially considering they reached at least the semifinals the last three seasons.

Rancho Cotate looked as if it would blow out Cardinal Newman after scoring three touchdowns in the first quarter for a 21-0 lead. Carlos Franco, who rushed for 204 yards, scored touchdowns on long runs of 71 and 54 yards, while quarterback Gunner Mefferd plunged into the end zone from 2 yards out.

Cardinal Newman, however, rallied with three touchdowns of its own to tie the game at halftime. The Cardinals tacked on two more touchdowns to complete a 35-point blitz. A TD pass from Mefferd to Joey Trono cut the Cardinals’ lead to 35-28, but Cardinal Newman got a scoring run from Kevin Lucey to go up 42-28 midway through the fourth.

Rancho Cotate rallied for two more scores in the fourth quarter to set up the decisive sequence.

“Our guys played their hearts out, and they didn’t give up,” Conroy said. “It was one of those games they’ll remember. We kind of got stalled on offense, but we couldn’t slow them down. I thought they played hard and felt they had a chance the whole way. It’s heartbreaking for our seniors because they really wanted to win this game. Now, we’ll see if we can carry this going forward.”

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