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Sometimes, a worthwhile challenge can be painful.

Healdsburg head coach Dave Stine didn’t hide from the reality of that after a 54-0 defeat by Harker of San Jose in Healdsburg on Friday night.

Stine referenced his team’s 66-0 defeat of Emeryville last year in saying Friday night’s defeat was the much better experience in terms of his team trying to improve themselves.

“You don’t get better doing that (crushing Emeryville) and I think we got better playing Harker tonight,” Stine said. “Tonight was a challenge. The kids hung in there and didn’t give up.”

Sometimes, a worthwhile challenge can led to thrilling results.

First-year coach Gehrig Hotaling led his Rancho Cotate team to Morageato meet defending CIF North Coast Section Division II champion Campolindo, and the Cougars came home with a 33-28 victory to remain undefeated after three games.

“Right now, the feeling tonight was unreal,” Hotaling said.

Hotaling said it was a statement game by his defense, which pitched a second-half shutout thanks to two goal-line stands in the fourth quarter on which forced Campolindo to turn the ball over on downs deep in Rancho territory.

Elias Rantissi lead the Cougars (3-0) with 13 tackles, Connor Barbato had three sacks and Hotaling said Kobi Buckley’s gutty performance on both sides of the ball, even with a high-ankle sprain, made a difference.

On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Jake Simmons threw for 336 yards, three touchdowns and rushed for 60 yards. Jaelen Ward caught 11 passes for 122 yards.

Rancho Cotate had two weeks to prepare for this game, as they had a bye week after soundly defeating Analy 48-3 on Sept. 1 and St. Mary’s 62-0 in their first game Aug. 26.

“We thought it would be close,” he said “We had a bye week, two weeks to prepare.”

Hotaling has coached with the Cougars for the past 10 years, he said, serving as the offensive coordinator the past three. The new coach isn’t jumping to any conclusion, even with two blowout wins and one statement victory by the Cougars this year.

“It nice to beat a team like this on the road,” Hotaling said. “It’s an amazing feeling. I’d like to think our program is on the map and people are starting to notice us, but I’d rather be under the radar and just take it on a game-by-game basis.”

For Healdsburg, too, the night’s outcome had positive effects.

“We actually played pretty good,” Stine said. “We were just out played. They’re the stronger, faster team.”

The Hounds (2-2) won their opener 7-0 against Drake before being shut out 50-0 by Piedmont in their second game. Last week, they beat San Rafael 28-6.

WINDSOR 46, HAYWARD 12

At Hayward, the Jaguars jumped out to a 30-0 lead after one quarter and didn’t look back during a dominant defensive showing. Coach Kevin Bellatore said the defense recorded 10 sacks and five turnovers, two of the latter which they returned for touchdowns.

The big victory in the East Bay follows two tough defeats in the first two games for Windsor (1-2), which lost to Campolindo in the Division II section championship last year. The Jaguars were throttled by Freedom 49-0 in their first game of 2017 and got trounced by Del Oro 46-13 last week.

“We played two state powerhouses and really got hit in the mouth, but it really helped us for this game,” Bellatore said.

Offensively for Windsor, quarterback Nick Pariani was 13-for 23 with three touchdowns and 171 passing yards and Jorgen Sarganis rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns.

MONTGOMERY 41, SONOMA VALLEY 13

At Montgomery, the Vikings hit the accelerator and jumped to a three-touchdown lead in a record-setting night for quarterback Joey Thresh.

Thresh was 30-for-36, throwing for 501 yards and 6 touchdowns, all Montgomery records according to coach Tony Keefer.

The coach, in his first season at Montgomery, said Thresh has thrown for 17 touchdowns and zero interceptions through three games this season.

Auston Rapollo caught 17 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns for the Vikings (2-1) Friday night.

Keefer was happy his team jumped out to an early lead and didn’t let up against Sonoma Valley.

“That’s our goal, to get out fast and staying in that,” he said.

Keefer said the team kind of checked out last week after scoring 40 in the first quarter against Oakland.

“This week we wanted to do the same thing and we wanted to execute that, and we did that,” he said.

“We’re learning how to play each play,” he continued, “without worrying about the score.”

For the Dragons (0-2), Rocko Wetzel and Josef Maranec connected on two long touchdown passes, one for 82 yards and the other for 38.

Tyler Winslow had 93 rushing yards for Sonoma Valley.