If you’d asked Rancho Cotate High varsity football coach Ed Conroy a month ago where he’ d least like to be entering the third week of the gridiron season, he no doubt would have replied “here.”
But, “here” is where the 0-2 Cougars stand as they prepare to host 2-0 Petaluma High on Friday at 8 p.m.
Through two games, the Cougars defense has been strong but susceptible to the big play. It’s offense, meanwhile, has sputtered.
“The key for us from here on out is to move the ball offensively,” said Conroy. “We have to be more consistent offensively and move the ball in order to keep our defense off the field more.”
Neither junior quarterback Erik Hawk nor sophomore Ben Morie has had much luck moving the Ranch through the first two weeks of the season. This is not to say that the two haven’t played well, they have, and the problem is their play has been sporadic-and that’s not how you win football games.
If Hawk and Morie can put together their best performance of the season, this should open the Rancho offense and junior running back Chris Jensen in particular, who has rushed for 189 yards this year.
“Petaluma is a good, solid, well-coached football team that doesn’t beat itself,” said Conroy. “They have a potent offense and run the triple option, We’re going to have to stop their running game in order to stay in the game.”
In other Rancho football action this week:
Junior Varsity: Cougars’ coaches Nate Eisenman, Rick Davis and Mike Shiftler and their squad will first and foremost be looking to sustain some offensive momentum against Petaluma on Friday beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Rancho’s underclassmen, a majority of whom went 700 last year as freshmen, have yet to score an offensive touchdown through their first two games-and win or lose, hitting pay dirt is going to go a long ways toward building the Cougars confidence back up.
Over the course of the last two weeks, the junior varsity has steered away from the complicated triple-option (with the quarterback read) in favor of a more traditional offensive running back.
Quarterback Ryan Tanner has looked good throwing the ball thus far, although the Cougars have been shy about going to the air. Once Rancho’s passing game is on sturdier ground this balance should open more holes for tailback Damon Smith.
Defensive has been the least of the Ranch’s worries thus far.
Freshmen: Ah yes, the unknown quantity. Cougar coaches Ron Lunsford and Norm Hansen will debut their squad on Thursday against visiting Cardinal Newman High at 4 p.m.
Irene Hilsendager’s column each week touches on moments in the history of Cotati, Rohnert Park and Penngrove.