January 24, 2021
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Cougars clinch number 2 seed with Ukiah

  • Another Cougar touchdown #25 Rasheed Rankin squirted through an offensive hole made in Ukiah's defense with the added protection of #7 Anthony Scardina for a Cougar touchdown. Rancho won the game 44-0. Photo by Robert Grant

By: Paul Matli
November 15, 2019

For those who have followed the Rancho Cotate Cougars football team, you should be familiar with the phrase “distractions.” This season has been filled with distractions for the Cougars and last week wasn’t any different. Instead of having their regular season wrap up two weeks ago, the players and community members had to endure power outages, disgusting air and cancellation of school activities. These events might have stopped some teams, it didn’t stop the Cougars though.

“The season didn’t all go as planned,” Coach Gehrig Hotaling said. “There were some trials and tribulations, hardships, ups and downs, but sitting right now you guys have put yourself in a great spot.”

With a 44-0 thrashing of the Ukiah Wildcats, the Cougars finished the regular season 7-3 and 4-1 in the NBL Conference; good for second place behind undefeated Cardinal Newman. This victory gave the Cougars what they wanted; a home playoff game.

This win capped off what Coach Hotaling called a great 10 games. Football, just like life, never goes exactly as planned. Life teaches us to be vigilant, persevere and meet challenges head-on. This is what the Cougars did throughout the season.

The season started off with the offense not playing well and the Cougars dropped a couple of games early because of it. This included the offense hitting rock bottom the first half against Windsor, but like we do in life, the Cougars didn’t give up or get down on themselves, they persevered and since that point the offense has been on fire.

It wasn’t just the offense having to face challenges; the kicking game also faced obstacles. Coach Hotaling has touched on how important the kicking game is because most games in the playoffs will be decided by less than 7 points. He believes figuring out the kicking game is the key moving forward for the Cougars. The Cougars made their second field goal on the season Friday night.

As for how the Cougars played Friday night, Hotaling was very pleased with the defense.

“Our defense played well. We tackled well,” Hotaling said. “We had good field position all night long.”

Coach did feel like the Cougars came out a little flat, which could have coincided with the week break. He also touched on the health of the team. The Cougars have had to overcome injuries all season long, but they are getting healthy at just the right time.

In his post-game message to the team Hotaling singled out Izayah George for his 96-yard touchdown catch. This touchdown was a jolt of lightning for the Cougars during the game and after the game George was met with chants of MVP MVP from his teammates.

Hotaling concluded his message by imploring his team with questions of, “Are we done yet?” and the team screamed, “No we aren’t” in unison.

As for the NCS Playoffs, the Cougars are the Number 2 seed in Division 3. They open the playoffs with a rematch against the 7 seed Windsor Tigers. After this they will play either Number 3 seed Benicia or 6 seeded El Cerrito next Friday or Saturday. The other side of the bracket includes Number 1 seed Las Lomas playing Number 8 seed Santa Rosa and Number 4 seed Hayward playing number 5 seed American Canyon. If the Cougars win their first two games the Championship game will be either November 29th or November 30th.

Since Friday is a home game and starts at 7 p.m., it’s imperative that community members show up and show support to a team who have overcome so much to get to the postseason. The players will be ready to go and want the fans to be loud throughout the whole game. Playoff football is what everyone plays for, whether you are high school, college or professional and it’s finally here. It’s time for the Cougars to show what they are made of.