ROHNERT PARK — Both undefeated and with the league title hanging in the balance, the Analy and Petaluma football teams battled until the last second Friday night, until the Tigers unleashed a bombshell to win it all.
Falling backward into the end zone, Analy wide receiver Ross Simmons caught a 46-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jack Newman as time expired to give the host Tigers a 42-36 victory and the Sonoma County League crown.
The victory preserved the Tigers’ perfect season, giving them 10 wins in as many games and completing a 6-0 SCL sweep.
Simmons’ teammates swarmed him as he cradled the football in the end zone, dogpiling him and slapping his helmet.
“I just knew I had to beat him,” he said of his defender, who blanketed him all night and was close on the final play. “He was with me the whole game. I still can’t even believe that. It was the biggest play I’ve ever made in my life.”
Analy, The Press Democrat’s top-ranked team most of the season, has dominated the SCL for the past four seasons, having won 26 consecutive league games and six in a row against Petaluma. The Trojans finished 7-3 overall and 5-1 in league.
“That was a helluva football game,” Tigers coach Daniel Bourdon told his team after the game. “But it also shows we’re mortal. The road gets tougher from here.”
He praised the poise of Newman and Simmons, who delivered under the most pressure-packed moment.
“We tell the guys, ‘Big time players make big time plays in big time games,’” Bourdon said.
With both teams undefeated going in, it set up a perfect league championship contest. Both coaches knew it would be the toughest test either team had faced.
It was a contest of opposite strategies as well. Analy is an airborne team, with Newman having thrown for 35 touchdowns through nine games this season. Contrast that with Petaluma’s rushing game, as the Trojans ran for 38 of their 43 touchdowns going into Friday’s game.
Both teams pretty much stuck to their game plans.
Petaluma coach Rick Krist’s Trojans ground it out on the ground, pushing through rushing yards all game. All five of Petaluma’s touchdowns were on runs.
With the scored tied early in the fourth quarter, Analy was forced to punt and Petaluma took possession on its own 24 with 8:04 to play. The Trojans strung together a 13-play drive, winding down the clock and advancing to Analy’s 46. But on third-and-11, quarterback Brenden White couldn’t connect with his intended receiver, Harrison Royall, who was under stiff pressure from Analy’s Kyle Johnson.
On fourth down, running back Lucas Dentoni, the Trojans’ workhorse, was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, turning the ball over to Analy at their 46 with 59 seconds left.
Analy went with its tried and true game plan — let Newman throw.
The Tigers were able to move it across midfield on a 15-yard reception by Simmons. After a penalty and another short pass and an incompletion, it looked like the game may be headed to overtime.
With 10 seconds left, Analy had the ball on Petaluma’s 46, out of field-goal range.
Bourdon said they did not want to risk overtime: “I did not like our chances in OT.”