The West County High School football team played its first game under its new title, resulting in a last-minute 35-34 win over Santa Rosa High School Friday night in Sebastopol.
“It was an exciting one. I’m getting too old for the games that are that close. But you know, it was a good one; it was a good way to kind of get to get a little kind of gut check for our guys here to start off the year,” said West County head coach Dan Bourdon.
If one thing has been consistent for the West County football team (1-0, 0-0 North Bay League – Oak) over the last year and a half — it has been a change.
Pre-pandemic, the school, still known as Analy, announced in January 2020 former Analy head coach Bourdon would be returning to the position after the former head coach James Foster chose to step down.
A former Analy quarterback who graduated in 1999, in his first 9-year stint as head coach Bourdon led the then Tigers to five straight league championships before stepping down in 2017, where he remained at the school as a teacher.
Bourdon stepped back into the position following two losing seasons and looked to return the team to prominence before a global pandemic disrupted any revitalization plans.
Since then, more change has occurred off the field as Analy, and El Molino High School shut their doors, combined to form one school, and opened this school year as the newly named West County High School.
In fact, the team still does not have a mascot and will not for the remainder of the school year while a committee works towards determining permanent school colors and a mascot throughout this year, according to the West County High School Athletic Director Joe Ellwood.
Along with the new students, the incorporation of El Molino into the new school — still on the former Analy campus — brought with it a crop of players to integrate onto the team, and the former El Molino head coach Jerod Brown now serves as an assistant coach.
“When the COVID season ended, like two days later, we got in touch. And it was like, ‘Alright, man, let's do this.’ And so I said, ‘Dude, you're the head coach, I'll be the second. Let's just make sure we do this right for the kids.’ And that's been our goal from day one was like. Let's focus on that, and I think that matters. Like I said, the community is kind of a mess right now, but we're just trying to focus on when we're out here,” Brown said.
In Friday’s game, Santa Rosa relied on its heavy run game to earn a 26-14 lead midway through the third quarter.
But West County was not ready to roll over and began to mount a comeback.
First, a 41-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Sammy Long to junior wide receiver Giovanni Visintin reduced the Panthers’ lead to 26-20.
Next, the West County defense came up with a big stop to end a long Santa Rosa drive after recovering a fumble in the endzone.
On the next drive, West County’s junior running back Jaden Brady broke away to score on a 46-yard touchdown run to take back a 28-26 West County lead.
However, Santa Rosa answered again, scoring on a quarterback-designed run from the West County 1-yard line to go up 34-28.
Visintin returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to set up his offense in enemy territory with just over two minutes left in regulation.
In the final minute, on a third and long in the Panthers’ red zone, Long found senior wide receiver Ian Hocheder streaking across the middle of the defense. Hocheder caught the ball, turned up field, fought through defenders and dove into the endzone to tie the score 34-34.
Aden Noethig delivered the extra point, and West County celebrated a victory in their inaugural exhibition.