Inches are what separates winners from losers.
Inches are what makes one team practice on Thanksgiving break while the other stays home.
Inches are what moves one team on to the semifinals and sends the other packing.
Inches are what makes one group of young men shout to the heavens and what makes another fall, gutted, to their knees.
Windsor High School won their Division 2 North Coast Section quarterfinal against visiting Santa Rosa by inches Friday night. In a game that the Jaguars dominated fully — until they didn’t — the outcome was not decided until the final play of overtime when Santa Rosa senior Cassius Banks was stopped at the goal line as the Panthers tried for a two-point conversion.
The 38-37 win sends Windsor into the semifinals where the Jaguars will meet the winner of Saturday's matchup between No. 3 seed Concord and No. 6 Granada.
Windsor coach Tom Kirkpatrick had no time late Friday for any questioning of his No. 2 seeded Jags, who allowed a resurgent Santa Rosa squad back into the game. Kirkpatrick focused on the fight the Jags brought when it mattered, when their season could have come crashing down.
There’s no shoulda, coulda, woulda from him. Not yet at least.
“It’s playoff football,” he said. “You either win or go home.”
“Give them so much credit. Santa Rosa High School battled,” Kirkpatrick said. “Holy smokes.”
It was a game, it could be argued, that never should have gone to overtime.
After three quarters, the Jaguars were up 24-7 — the same seven points Santa Rosa had since early in the second quarter.
Then Windsor’s super back David Escarcega, who had 101 yards on 14 carries, made it 31-7 with eight minutes to play in the game.
And then the Panthers started clawing their way back.
First it was senior quarterback Isaiah Steele with a 5-yard keeper for six. A two-point conversion on a run from Banks made it 31-15.
With 2:15 to play, Santa Rosa scored again on a 3-yard run from Blake Thomas. Another two-point conversion made it 31-23.
And then a Steele to Kalei Aukai pass turned into an Aukai sprint for six. Banks, again, was successful in his two-point conversion and the game was tied. A 32-yard Windsor field goal attempt could have ended it in regulation but it was no good.
Into the most unlikely of overtimes we went.
Windsor’s Jackson Baughman, who racked up 174 yards on 22 carries despite playing with a broken thumb and a cast the size of his leg, struck first with a 5-yard TD run in overtime.
The Jags’ extra point was good: 38-31.
The Panthers’ play calls nearly mirrored what the Jags did and one three plays, they were in for six, too. But Santa Rosa went for two.
They had been successful all night in going for two. They were the visitors. Conventional wisdom says the visitor goes for the win.
The Panthers also had the momentum from their stunning comeback.
But it wasn’t enough.
The inches were too much.
The odds of a No. 10 seed toppling a No. 2 were too great.
But let’s remember this, this was a Panthers squad that defied the odds. This program hasn’t been this deep into the playoffs since the Hoover administration.
Panthers head coach Denis Brunk said he wouldn’t change a thing.