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Members of the Rancho Cotate High School varsity defense team take down a receiver from Casa Grande's football team, during their game Friday at Cougar Stadium. The teams met up during the first round of NCS playoffs and Rancho defeated Casa 55-7. Rancho, being first seed, will once again have home field advantage and will take on American Canon Friday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. for the next round of playoffs.
Rancho Cotate opened the playoffs strong with a dominating victory, 55-7, against Casa Grande Friday at the Cougar’s home turf in Rohnert Park. The win means the Cougars advance to the quarter finals of the North Coast Section Division 2 playoffs. This is the Cougar’s fourth win in a row and with a record like that it’s easy to get carried away. “I was really interested to see who would make the plays with our backs against the wall. We’ve played good teams, we’ve played great teams, and we’ve played average teams this year, but we’ve never played [a team] that’s desperate to continue their season,” Cougar Head Coach, Gehrig Hotaling said, “It took us a little bit to find our rhythm, but we did. It was a good outcome.” It was the Cougar’s game right from the outset. They kicked things off with a strong drive right up the middle, but then ran into a bit of trouble around midfield. It wasn’t until Cougar quarterback, Jared Stocker, chucked a long pass to his wide receiver, Dylan Barella, that the Cougars managed to push the line of scrimmage into the Gaucho’s territory. When they pushed, though, they pushed deep. A few plays later Cougar running back, Sumari Jones, crossed into the end zone for the first score of the night. The next touchdown came a few minutes later and in much the same fashion. Cougar wide receiver, Connor Barbato, caught a 23- yard pass thrown by Stocker and moved the ball up to the 10-yard line. Running back, Rasheed Rankin, carried it the rest of the way with a pair of drives right up the middle, and the resulting touchdown put the Cougars solidly in the lead. We just had a great week of practice. Our coaches were spot on, our offensive line dominated the trenches, our running game was on fire, the passing game was on fire and defense barely gave up anything. The whole team just really came together tonight,” Stocker said. “This is the best defense in Nor-Cal. Easily.” But the Gauchos weren’t ones to take the Cougar’s abuse lying down. Their wide receiver, Dominic Mchale, slipped through a hole in the Cougar defense and caught a 40-yard pass. This put the Cougars on the back foot, and the Gaucho’s other wide receiver, Nate Busse, followed up with a 17-yard catch in the end zone which scored his team their first and only points for the night. The slight stumble galvanized the Cougars. They went on a scoring frenzy that moved the game well outside the Gaucho’s reach. In one notable drive, the Cougars gained possession of the ball with 45 seconds left on the clock for the first half. They started things off with a 30-yard pass completion to wide receiver, Connor Barbato, and then followed with another 20 yards to their running back, Sumari Jones. It took a short pass to the Cougar wide receiver, Ryan Hupp, to close things out, and when the dust settled the Cougars had managed to move the ball across half the field in less than thirty seconds of play time. “We knew they were a good team,” Gaucho’s Head Coach, Dennis Brunk, said. “We knew we had to keep their offense off the field, and we didn’t do that. With a good team like that, they can run the ball, they can throw the ball, and we had a hard time slowing down their offense.” Next up for the Cougars are the quarter finals against the American Canyon Wolves—the 8th seed in the division. The game will be at home for the Cougars and takes place Fri., Nov. 9.