SEBASTOPOL — Have you ever been on a teeter-totter? You know, those kids rides at the playground that lift you up, only to let you plummet to the ground moments later, taking your stomach with it each and every time?
That was the way the shootout between No. 1 Analy and No. 4 Marin Catholic unfolded in the Division 3 North Coast Section semifinal football game Friday night — screaming highs zooming into desperate lows with barely time to take a breath in between.
The visiting Marin Catholic Wildcats prevailed 40-35 before a raucous crowd at Tiger Stadium, moving the Wildcats on to the Division 3 championship and sending the Tigers home until next season.
“When you play a great football team you have to play close to perfect to win,” Analy coach Dan Bourdon said. “We made a few mistakes but we played hard.”
With the win, Marin Catholic earns the right to play the winner of Saturday night’s contest between No. 2 Bishop O’Dowd and No. 3 Rancho Cotate. The date and site for the Division 3 hasn’t yet been announced.
It was unclear who would move on until the final horn sounded. The game was a back and forth shootout all night long.
You knew Analy was going to score points. This is a Tigers outfit that came into Friday night averaging 55 points per game. Defensively, they allow 15. The Tigers defense had recorded four shutouts this season.
And senior quarterback Jack Newman had more than 4,000 yards on the season and 50 touchdowns.
On Friday, it was more of the same. Newman was 35 for 50 and 465 yards. He threw for five touchdowns but also tossed three interceptions, including a pick that sealed the game in the waning seconds.
“We just made one more play than they did,” Marin Catholic coach Mazi Moayed said. “It was an unbelievable game.”
“They are well coached. They have an incredible quarterback,” he said.
So, too, do the Wildcats.
Junior Spencer Petras was 19 for 31 and 317 yards and three touchdowns. Although not the quickest guy at his listed 6-foot-5 and 218 pounds, Petras made a number of key plays with his feet — either by design or getting flushed from the pocket by Tiger pressure and making something out of nothing.
Marin Catholic struck first in the first quarter on a one yard run by workhorse back Matthew Dedonatis.
Analy evened it up on a similar play courtesy of Kyle Johnson to make it 7-7 after one quarter.
Analy went ahead in the second when Newman tossed an 8-yard pass to Carson Pforsich to make it 14-7. But Petras connected on a 53-yard pass play to Ben Skinner to tie it at 14-14.
Newman countered with a pass to Ross Simmons that made it 21-14 Tigers before Marin Catholic kicker Sean Mckeogh made good on a 34-yard field goal to make it 21-17 Tigers at the half.
Marin Catholic took the lead late in the third when Petras tossed a 9-yarder to Hunter Juarez to put the Wildcats up 24-21.
In the fourth, Newman connected with Ross Simmons on a 36-yard play to make it 28-24 until Dedonatis struck again with a 47-yard run. After a bad snap rendered the point after attempt moot, the Wildcats were up 30-28.
The Wildcats struck again when Petras hit Peter Brown for a 5-yard touchdown pass that made it 37-28 Wildcats with 7:42 to play.
Analy’s Newman aired it out to Spencer Vogel who scampered into the end zone for a 41-yard play with a little more than six minutes play. It was 37-35 Marin Catholic.
Marin Catholic went up by five with 36 seconds on the clock after Mckeogh connected on a 36-yard field goal.
Without any timeouts, Newman exhorted his team to make plays and get out of bounds. It wasn’t enough. One connection to the middle of the field left the clock running, another pass was batted down and finally a pick by Liam Oprendek of a Newman pass sealed the deal.
One side jubilant, the other dejected.
The Wildcats came into Friday night’s contest averaging more than 40 points per contest, while allowing fewer than 12 en route to their second consecutive Marin County Athletic League title. Much like the Tigers have seemingly owned the Sonoma County League in recent years, the Wildcats have dominated MCAL play every year since 2009 barring one — in 2014 they shared the title.
And in that same timespan, Marin Catholic has bounced Analy from the postseason four times.
“I guess that’s what makes a rivalry,” Moayed said. “We play well against them, traditionally. We figured it would be a close game. We didn’t know how it would turn out. What a game. Hats off to those guys.”
Bourdon said perspective can be hard to find in the moments just after a loss like the Tigers suffered Friday night.
“It’s always tough on the night your season ends,” he said.
“They have a lot to be proud of,” he said.
That’s part of the joy and pain of competing. Just like the teeter-totter that rocks your stomach while you are riding it, you never really want to climb off. And you miss it when the ride is over.