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February 17, 2019
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Exhibition match brings out the stars

  • Rancho Cotate High School seniors, Trevor Lee, Connor Barbato, Elias Rantissi, Alex Jimenez, Shane White, James Parker, Jordan Lavulo, Riley Cronin, Eric Hupp and Andrew Alfaro, along with their coaching staff for both Rancho and the White team, are all smiles after the White team defeated the Grey team 35-7, in the annual Tri-County All-Star football game The teams played against each other Sat., Jan. 12 at Petaluma High School. The players in the game represented Sonoma, Napa and Marin Counties and play in hopes of bringing awareness to the more than 500,000 kids in the foster care system. Photo by Jane Peleti

By: Joshua Farestveit-Moore
January 18, 2019

Football fans rejoiced as a few of the Rancho Cotate Cougars returned for an encore at the sixth annual Tri County All Star Football game in Petaluma last Saturday. 

It was White vs Grey with White taking home the bragging rights and a stunning 35-7 victory. Nine Cougar alumni came out to play for the White team. They must have felt right at home as the overall effort was managed by none other than the Cougar head coach, Gehrig Hotaling, himself. 

“The first couple of days it was kind of quiet out there on practice, but then they gelled,” Hotaling said. “They became friends, they started a group chat and then they soared. It’s as good a chemistry as you can build in five days.” Despite a whole host of new faces and only a week to get to know each other, both the White and Grey teams operated with seamless efficiency. 

White took the early lead in the first quarter when their quarterback, Nic Visser, threw a long bomb to their wide receiver, BJ Johnson. Johnson caught the ball and carried it deep into Grey’s side of the field, but it took a drive up the middle by White’s running back, Jayvee Long, to land the first touchdown of the game. 

Grey took possession after that touchdown, but to call that a ‘temporary’ state of affairs might be too generous. They barely got a few plays into their drive before White’s defensive back, Andrew Beatty, intercepted the ball around the midfield mark. 

But then White’s new offensive stalled out. It was third with a long way to go for the first down. White launched a desperate gambit that sent Johnson, their wide receiver, up the middle of the field to the end zone. The quarterback fired off the pass. The ball sailed true and landed safe and sound in Johnson’s waiting hands. 

Of course White didn’t have it all their own way. Grey had their chance to respond in kind when a personal foul involving a face mask brought them deep into White territory. Their wide receiver, Sage Kleiman, slipped through an opening and outran his guard. The Grey quarterback noticed and passed him the ball in a perfect spiral. Kleiman snatched the ball out of the air and scored his team their first and only touchdown of the afternoon. 

That touchdown was the last one scored in the game. Grey put in a valiant effort but ultimately failed to overcome White’s commanding lead. 

“The kids played their hearts out, which is what they do,” Grey coach, Denis Brunk, said. “It’s about the teams that play each other on the regular coming together—the friendships that form. They beat us today but there’s always next year.”

The proceeds from the Tri County All Star Football Game will to Valley of the Moon Children’s Foundation. The foundation hopes to bring awareness to the 687,000 youths, according to Children’s Rights, currently in foster care. The plan is to use the proceeds to purchase backpacks and other school supplies for foster youths in the tri county area. 

It’s an admirable cause. 

For a lot of players, though, volunteering wasn’t the reason they decided to participate as a Tri County All Star. Certainly for some it was about the fundraising, for others it was the thrill of the competition, but for a few it was simply their last chance to play high school football before graduation. 

“It was just great to be out here again. I just wanted to come out here and leave on a win,” White player, Riley Cronin, said.