The plastic crash of helmet on helmet kicked off the start of a fresh football season at Rancho Cotate High School Friday, Aug. 10 as three teams from across the North Bay met in Rohnert Park for a friendly scrimmage.
Eureka, Casa Grande and our very own Rancho Cotate Cougars took the opportunity to scrape off the rust left by the long summer break. They practiced offense, defense and everything in between to the delight of the hundreds of parents and fans that turned out to watch.
“It’s a football community. We’re not Texas—we’re Sonoma County and we’re pretty proud of what we have,” said Henri Sarlatte, Assistant Principal and former Athletics Director at Rancho Cotate. “Football is the birth of a new school year. Every season I see a hundred or some-odd children playing. They’re excited about school because they’re part of a football team; the student body is excited; the community is excited.”
Indeed, the anticipation and joy in the stadium was almost palpable. Kids ran laps, chasing after friends they hadn’t seen in months and parents clustered together in the bleachers and devoured barbeque bought from the snack bar — the souls of Rohnert Park and Cotati on full display.
“It’s a family. It really is a family,” said Terra Reese, Director of Merchandising for the Rancho Cotate Cougar Boosters.
Last year set a high bar for the Cougars with 10 wins and 2 losses, a record that the Cougar’s Head Coach, Gehrig Hotaling, hopes to beat.
“Our defense should be incredible and they showed that tonight. They’re tough, they’re veterans and they’ve done it before. They’re proven. Hopefully they can do it again,” said Hotaling.
But it’s the offense for which Hotaling worried most. Graduation took nine of the Cougar’s starters, including quarterback Jake Simmons. Such a loss of veterancy left the Cougar offense looking a little green, but according to Hotaling, all the team needs is time.
Fortunately, what’s there certainly showed promise. In one notable play against Casa Grande, quarterback Ryan Hoxie tossed the ball with a quick pass to wide receiver Ryan Hupp. Hupp caught it and broke a flying tackle, tearing through Casa Grande lines for a 50-yard charge and a touchdown.
“They have the tools to do it. They just got to put it together,” Hotaling said.
Among the new recruits was defensive and offensive linebacker, Alondra Catalan. Last season Catalan was a cheerleader, but for her final year of high school she hopped the line and donned pads and helmet to stand shoulder to shoulder with her fellow Cougars.
“In Lacrosse, I got irritated because I wasn’t allowed to hit as much. They blow the whistle if we do. I wanted to do a sport that has contact,” Catalan said. “In most situations girls can do the same as guys, but it’s like science that guys are stronger. I want to work hard and try to be on their level.”
While the scrimmage certainly satiated the crowds’ appetite, Cougar fans can rest assured that the main course will come along soon. The first game of season will take place Friday, Aug. 17 against Sacramento at Rancho Cotate.