|Jags silence Cougars
The music was missing for Rancho Cotate High football fans as they exited Cougar Stadium last Friday night.
Usually after a Cougars’ home game, Rancho Cotate’s marching band performs outside the stadium for a few minutes to celebrate a victory. But the only sounds after the game were those of some players weeping because their season – for seniors, their high school careers – was done. Windsor eliminated the Cougars from the North Coast Section Div. II playoffs in rather rude fashion, 32-10.
The Cougars finished the season with a 6-5 overall record, while the Jaguars are also 6-5 but advance to face top-seeded and North Bay League champion Casa Grande of Petaluma in the second round of the playoffs.
Before last Friday, Rancho Cotate hadn’t lost a home game since falling in the playoffs to Concord on Dec. 3, 2011. Their last home loss in the regular season or to a team from the North Bay League was Oct. 9, 2009 when they lost to Maria Carrillo 35-25.
The Jaguars capitalized on six Rancho Cotate turnovers, dictated the pace of the game with a ball-control offense and came up with the timely defensive plays to keep the Cougars out of the end zone when Rancho Cotate drove deep into Windsor territory.
“Windsor just played better than us tonight,” Rancho Cotate coach Ed Conroy said. “We had chances to stop them but we just didn’t get it done. It’s just the way the game went. I feel bad for the seniors because it’s the last time they’ll get to play for us, but there’s nothing I can say to make them feel better right now.”
The flow of this game was a microcosm of Rancho Cotate’s entire season. When the Cougars were at their best, they didn’t turn the ball over and executed well when they got inside the opponents’ 30. But when it wasn’t clicking for the Cougars, things went south in a hurry. Such was the case against Windsor.
Sophomore quarterback Gunner Mefferd endured a rough season-ender by completing only 7 of 16 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown, a 38-yard score to sophomore receiver Chris Taylor Yamanoha to tie the game at 7-7 in the first quarter.
Unfortunately for the Cougars and Mefferd, he was picked off five times by the Windsor defense, including a back-breaking 99-yard interception return for a touchdown by safety Jalen Roman with 5:14 remaining in the game.
Roman’s score thwarted another promising Cougars’ drive and increased the Jaguars’ lead at the time from 23-10 to 29-10. Windsor added a late field goal for the final points of the contest.
One of Rancho Cotate’s biggest problems against Windsor was getting off the field on third downs or preventing the Jaguars from gaining first downs when they were in unfavorable down-and-distance situations. The Jaguars routinely rebounded from first-and-15 or first-and-20 situations with enough yards to keep the sticks moving, keep the clock running and eventually wear down Rancho Cotate’s defense.
With the score tied at 7-7, the Jaguars moved from their 22 to the Cougars’ 25 in 13 plays before settling for a 43-yard field goal from Gedi Tavares to take a 10-7 lead with 6:30 remaining in the second quarter. What made the drive so significant is that it began with 1:28 left in the first quarter.
Windsor upped its lead to 17-7 when burly fullback Dmitri Acken bulled into the end zone from 4 yards out with 1:03 left in the first half.
The Cougars, after a poor Windsor punt, took possession on the Jaguars’ 36 but were unable to punch it into the end zone. Instead, they got a 23-yard field goal from Kevin Nguyen with 7:47 left in the third quarter to cut their deficit to 17-10.
Windsor responded on the ensuing possession by going 74 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown, a 30-yard scoring pass from Colin McAlvain to Roman with 2:09 left in the third for a 23-10 lead. The extra-point attempt was missed.
The Cougars seemed poised to get back into the game by moving from their 20 to the Jaguars’ 7. With first-and-goal from the 8, the Cougars’ four attempts to score went in vain, and the drive ended when Matt Basich picked off Mefferd’s pass in the end zone.
Rancho Cotate’s Carlos Franco was the game’s leading rusher with 70 yards on 12 carries. Joey Trono had five receptions for 56 yards to lead the Cougars.