For the first 24 minutes it looked like the Cougars glass slipper would continue to fit perfectly. Then the third quarter happened. Behind a 28-0 blitz led by the offensive and defensive lines from Bakersfield Christian, the Rancho Cotate Cougars Cinderella story came to a crashing end 42-21.
Entering the stadium it was clear the Cougars had the backing of the entire city of Rohnert Park. The stadium was standing room only ten minutes before kickoff and the crowd was raucous to start the game.
The Cougars fed off the crowd noise for much of the first half. The defense was flying around and quarterback Jared Stocker was making his signature Houdini plays. Unfortunately, the Cougars ran out of gas and the players were left to be consoled by friends and family as tears streamed down most of their eyes.
The three and one half hours at Cougars Stadium captured the joy and sorrow of high school football. The joy is how a community can rally around a group of 16-18 year olds playing for something bigger than themselves and the sorrow is seeing the result, with the players knowing their best wasn’t good enough.
Head Coach Gehrig Hotaling kept a positive attitude throughout his postgame meeting. His message was simple.
“The only reason for any tears right now is cause you are sad football’s over, you guys have nothing to hang your heads about,” Hotaling said. “You won two championships this year, I’m so proud of you guys, you accomplished something that hasn’t been done at this school for 16 or 17 years. You won a section championship, you’re Northern California Champions, that’s a good football team, it was a hard fought contest.”