About the only thing missing from the celebration Friday night was champagne, a speech by the mayor and the keys to the city. Otherwise it was Times Square on New Year's Eve when the clock strikes midnight. Screams to the sky to no one in particular, people hugging so aggressively someone would fall down, grown men flying into the air bumping shoulders, it felt like more than just a single victory, this heart-thumper that Rancho Cotate won over Cardinal Newman.
It was. And truth to tell, having seen and felt AT&T Park shake after the Giants won their first two World Series games, that was the atmosphere at Cougar Stadium. A mini-version, sure, but no less electric, rowdy and, especially, exuberant. Rancho beat Newman, 21-14, and, truth to tell again, this is probably what happens most of the time in Sonoma County when someone beats Newman in football.
"Yes, it did feel like a playoff game," Cougars coach Ed Conroy said. "These kids have a dream to go beyond this game. And their dream continues."
The road to the playoffs, it seems, always seems to go through Cardinal Newman. The confidence Rancho will get from this game is quantifiable and sustainable. Why? Because since 2003, Rancho has beaten Newman only once before Friday night. Both teams came into the game unbeaten, both in lockstep for quite some time to arrive at this point. This game had been on the football horizon for anyone who had followed the sport in Sonoma County and now there was this collective exhale.
"We felt like this was for the NBL championship," said Rancho Cotate quarterback Michael Courchaine, knowing the Cougars have one league game left, next week at home against Santa Rosa.