Rancho Cotate Cougars chalked up another win Friday. This time they faced off against the Pleasant Valley Vikings in a brutal 35-27 home game.
It wasn’t an easy fight. The Vikings forced the Cougars to pay for every mistake and it took all the way into the fourth quarter before the Cougars managed to seize the lead, but after they did the Cougars didn’t let go.
“The Vikings were well coached and disciplined,” said Gehrig Hotaling, Cougar’s head coach. “We knew they were going to be good going in and they were. They’re the number one team in their section for a reason.”
The game started poorly for the Cougars. They elected to kick off and perhaps that might have been a mistake. The Vikings were a fast moving team. They seized the early initiative and shoved the ball down the field, but the Cougar defense managed to hold and take back possession at their own two -yard line.
The reprieve didn’t last long, however. After three quick plays that only netted about five yards,
the Cougars punted. The Vikings caught it deep in Cougar territory, and a 20-yard pass to a Viking wide receiver, Caleb Cooley, put the first points on the board.
“Our number one focus all week was solving the riddle of the Vikings. It took us two quarters, but we eventually figured it out,” said Hotaling.
The first real clue to that riddle came in the last few minutes of the first quarter. On offense, Cougar quarterback, Jared Stocker, chucked a long pass down the field to his wide receiver, Brandon Proschold. He caught the 37-yard throw and in one play stole the initiative right out from under the Vikings. Another pass to running back, Rasheed Rankin, moved the ball inches from the end zone, which Rankin was perfectly happy to cross the very next play.
“This team was just physical and strong. They love football. These are football players meant for everything,” said Rankin.
The touchdown tied up the game and established the rhythm for the next two quarters. First the Cougars scored, then the Vikings, then back again and the teams went into the end game evenly matched.
It all broke in the Cougar’s favor when Rankin barreled right on through the Viking defensive line for a 20- yard charge. The Vikings, worn down by the Cougar’s offense, crumbled and the next play Rankin plunged across the end zone to secure the lead.
The Cougars then switched almost entirely to their running game in order to burn the clock. It worked, too. During their next possession, they inched the ball towards the Viking end zone and managed to take up over six minutes, leaving the Vikings with barely a minute and a half minutes to overcome the Cougar’s now two touchdown lead.
It proved impossible, but that didn’t stop the Vikings from trying. Credit where credit is due, the Vikings played to the very end, managing to score with less than a single second left on the clock.
“Their power game beat us up front. Their offensive line beat our defensive line, big time,” said Mark Cooley, Viking head coach. “I think our kids could have gotten a little bit tougher, I really do.”
The Cougar’s win against the Vikings leaves them undefeated with a record of 5-0. They’re now second in their division right behind Granada. There’s a bit of a break before their next game, which is an away against Cardinal Newman in Santa Rosa Friday, Sept. 28th.
“We’re a little beat up, but with games like this where we come out relatively unscathed and healthy, that’s good,” Hotaling said. “We’ve got two weeks to prepare for the league. We’re in a good spot right now.”