By JC Newman
In an extremely close game between Rancho Cotate High School and their rivals Cardinal Newman High Schoo win came to a close as Cardinal defeated Rancho in the NCS Playoff game in the 4th quarter by only one point.
“I always tell the team in a football game there’s anywhere between eight and 12 critical plays that decide the outcome. The tricky part is you don’t know when those plays are going to happen,” said Rancho Cotate Head Coach Gehrig Hotaling. “We didn’t have any major mistakes it was lots of little things that added up to be the one-point difference.”
The Cougars scored first with Rasheed Rankin running the ball in for 6. The field goal attempt was no good leaving the score at 6-0. The Cougars were able to score again but missed the 2-point conversion attempt and the score went to 12-0.
In the 2nd quarter, 4th down, Cougars went for a jump pass rather than the field goal but it came up incomplete. Next, Newman picked their way down field in the return series and came within about a yard of the score but on 3rd down, quarterback Beau Barrington couldn’t get the snap, the ball went loose and the Cougars gained possession.
Next play, Simmons’ pass from the 1-yard line was intercepted by Jake Woods for a short run into the end zone. The kick was good and the Cardinals made it onto the board, 12-7 Cougars.
Just before half-time a long field goal attempt by Rancho Cotate came up short and the score was left at 12-7.
In the 3rd, solid Cougar passing and receiving established strategic field position for a playbook perfect field goal straight up the middle and the score moved to 15-7, Cougars.
On a Newman return series, receiver Chauncey LeBerthon broke the tackle and ran the ball to inside the 10-yard line where he was caught by Logan Reese and pushed out of bounds. But the touchdown was inevitable, Newman scored on the next play and with the 2-point conversion the game was tied, 15-15.
In a Simmons handoff to Kobi Buckley, Cougars took the lead with their next touchdown and the kick which took it to 22-15. Newman answered with a score which came in the final minutes of the game to set the board at 22-22.
At Rancho’s next carry, with three minutes in the game, a strategic attempt to burn up the clock before taking the ball into the end zone drew a 15-yard penalty. The 30-yard field goal attempt fell short and the score was 28-22, Cougars.
Coach Hotaling recalls the moment, “We didn’t lose the game because of that play but it didn’t help us. Jalen [Ward] got behind the defense and Jake [Simmons] made an incredible play to get him the ball and [Ward] knew the situation on the clock. He made the right football play and it was penalized.”
With just over a minute and a half on the clock Newman moved downfield and ran what would be a crucial touchdown, followed by the winning extra point.
Rancho’s final three plays: Simmons was stopped by Dillon Farrer, an upcoming Cardinal Newman sophomore with a knack for the sack, and Nick Wall, who shared the hit. Next, Rancho was unable to get any closer to the end zone or out of bounds to stop the clock. Scrambling for one final snap the catch is good but receiver Logan Reese struggled to break out into open field before the tackle brought an end to another thrilling competition and one heck of a year for Rancho Cotate football.
Coach Hotaling concluded by saying, “I’m just very proud of our team. It’s been a wild and crazy year and everything that’s happened with the fires. I think our program is inching closer to the championship. We’re on the precipice of being in that game. We’ll keep grinding away.”
Cardinal Newman will advance to the Championship game to compete against Marin Catholic High School. The game will be played at Rancho Cotate High School, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m.