Seconds before the final gun sounded Friday night, Analy principal Chris Heller was already on El Molino's sideline cradling the Golden Apple trophy, which had spent the previous 12 months on the Lions' campus.
Moments later, the Analy football team and seemingly its entire student body had joined Heller and were surrounding the trophy — a prize the Tigers had just returned to Sebastopol with a 48-7 win over El Molino.
A year after the Lions snapped Analy's 11-year series winning streak with a 21-19 upset win, the Tigers took the trophy back by force. Analy (5-1, 1-1 in Sonoma County League) scored touchdowns on its first four drives and its defense took care of the rest by scoring two touchdowns, collecting five sacks and limiting the Lions (2-4, 0-2) to 162 total yards.
"I've never seen this group of guys so focused," Analy coach Dan Bourdon said. "They were ready to play football tonight."
The Tigers, known for throwing the ball in their spread offense, were also ready to run.
Analy emphasized the ground game and it paid off as junior Cooper Maloney had 108 yards on 14 carries with a 17-yard touchdown and senior Davis Ramirez had 79 yards on 8 carries and capped the scoring with a 45-yard scamper. The Tigers, who entered with 67 percent of their offensive yardage coming through the air, had 222 of their 339 yards on the ground.
"We usually start out with power and we try out different things to see what works," Maloney said. "The run was really working and that's a credit to our line. They played great."
The Tigers' line includes seniors Brandon Riebli, Robert Leon and Kia Fuiava and juniors Sean Benfield and Jimmy Pitkin. And the front five set the tone early by opening cavernous holes for Maloney, who had runs of 12, 17, 17 and 27 yards in the first half.
"We executed, that's about all you could say," Leon said. "There wasn't one person on this team that wasn't focused."
Analy sophomore quarterback Jake Zanutto threw three interceptions, but he still had his moments. Zanutto completed 10 of 22 passes 117 yards and tossed touchdown passes to wide receivers Ryan Beretta and Chris Bostock (5 catches, 63 yards).
But El Molino coach Mike Roan said his team's inability to stop the ground game was the key to the game.
"You've got to be able to stop the run against that offense and we couldn't do it," Roan said. "They powered right at us. They kept running and running and they kept getting 8 or 9 yards a pop."
El Molino's 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior quarterback Mike Pierson displayed a powerful right arm and a promising future, but he also spent much of the evening flushed out of the pocket. Pierson completed 13 of 31 passes for 88 yards with one interception and a six-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dakota Lerner-Ross.
Leon had two sacks while Fuiava and Riebli also brought down Pierson. Leading 28-7 in the fourth quarter, the Tigers' defense killed any suspense as Bo Swift returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown and Elijon Alcantar returned a fumble 60 yards for a score on back-to-back El Molino possessions.
You can reach Staff Writer Eric Branch at 521-5268 or firstname.lastname@example.org.