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SONOMA — Sonoma Valley was hooting all right. The game against was about to start against Analy Friday night and the Sonoma Valley players were feeling it. The Dragons were confident, had played well so far this season and, sure, why not, ratchet up the emotion. This is football, not a visit to the library, and so the players moved up and down their sideline, bouncing high on their feet. No one was standing. Everyone was moving, somewhere, sprinting, jumping, screaming, pounding shoulder pads to get a drum beat going, it seemed.

The Dragons were on the edge all right, that edge in which something good was going to happen. The gooseflesh they raised was the evidence.

Then, on the fourth play of the game, Analy running back Ja'Narrick James touched the ball and it all changed.

James took the handoff from quarterback Will Smith and sprinted right. As what happens so often with him, everyone around him seemed to slow down as he sped up. James did a quick juke to the left and went like a bullet down the Sonoma Valley sideline, untouched and now, of course, certainly unloved by the Sonoma Valley fans. It was a 55-yard touchdown run. Only 46 seconds had elapsed in the game. And yet the tempo had been set.

The home crowd and its home team dialed down all that enthusiasm and sideline gymnastics. One could feel the collective exhale, as if James just in that run had taken the air out of all of them. It was that noticeable.

"Players like to make a lot of noise before the game and that's OK, that's football," James said. "Then, if I can, I like to silence them. I try to set the tempo."

The tempo was set. Analy cruised to a 44-14 victory, a running clock in the fourth quarter always the telltale sign.

So I asked the Sonoma Valley head coach what he liked about the game.

Bob Midgley paused, said initially, "I don't know ... "

He paused again.

He was working hard on the question.

"Umm ... "

And then finally he was left with no other option, Midgley said, "I don't know if I liked anything about this game. They didn't do anything we hadn't seen. They just out-athlete'd us."

Meaning, Analy controlled the line of scrimmage, blitzed Sonoma Valley quarterback Dan Deely so much he probably saw hands grabbing at him while he was sleeping Friday night.

It was as if Sonoma Valley was playing uphill the whole game and nothing was more obvious of that than James, who seemed to be running downhill the whole game.

James ran for four touchdowns of 55, 3, 4 and 3 yards — all in the first half. It was the first time in his high school career he had done that. Four touchdowns from anyone in a game is a sight to remember but James provided even a more memorable mosaic.

He's 5-foot-4, 145 pounds. He's not slight but stocky, stocky strong, six-pack abdominals a physical testament to that, and without question James sees his height as an advantage.

"I'm so low to the ground already that it's hard for me to just fall," said James, known by a lot of nicknames including "Skittles," the candy.

His stature is so remarkably noticeable, even in high school, that James immediately offers a style comparison — NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. James is not claiming the same talent, but the same picturesque flair.

"Barry is my idol," James said. "He makes plays out of nothing. He makes players miss."

Like Sanders, James is here in one spot and a second later he's gone. When asked his time in the 40-yard dash, James turned a little sheepish.

"When I get timed in the 40," said the junior, "it's not that good, a 4.7."

But if he's being chased?

"If you chase me," James said, "I'll run a 4.2."

Something about someone wanting to rip off your helmet seems to make people run faster.

"He's explosive and we try to isolate him in situations where he can exploit that," said Analy coach Dan Bourdon.

As Midgely was having a difficult time finding something to like about the game, it would seem Analy coach Dan Bourdon would have an opposite reaction.It was 30-0 at the half. . Sonoma Valley was held to 55 yards total offense, while Analy totaled 271. Bourdon was going to play his starters for one series in the second half. But when Kerr Johnson returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown after Analy stopped Sonoma Valley in the opening series of the second half, making the score, 37-0,and Analy coach Dan Bourdon pulled most of his starters then.after Kerr Johnson's 70-yard punt return made it 37-0.

So one would think Bourdon would be grinning as if he just ate a whole cheesecake when no one was looking.

"We still haven't put together a complete game this season," Bourdon said of his 4-1 team. "Tonight we were a little sloppy. We made stupid penalties. We ran the wrong routes sometimes. We need to get better."

A team could get lazy after a victory like this, one that did not provide the ultimate test. A team could feel a bit full of itself and it would be a normal postgame reaction to a blowout. To stay hungry when you just fed on a 44-14 victory, that's when tough love coaching comes into play.

In this sense Bourdon does have a little help from one of his players, to pardon the pun.

"I like to prove people wrong," said James, utilizing one of the oldest motivations in sports.

And that indeed will be a coaching challenge for Bourdon. Counting last season's 12-1 record, the Tigers have won 16 of their past 18 games. Hard to feel like you're 5-foot-4 with that kind of record.

(You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.)