Third-seed Rancho Cotate pulled out a victory with a 42-yard field goal by Andrew Alfaro with four seconds to play in front of a home crowd on Saturday night to defeat gritty visitor Eureka 38-35 in an NCS Division 3 quarterfinal.
The Cougars (10-1) trailed 35-28 in the fourth quarter but tied it 35-35. Eureka gift-wrapped a turnover on a fumbled reverse at its own 18-yard line with 1:10 to play.
“I was surprised at Eureka’s play call, to be honest,” Rancho Cotate coach Gehrig Hotaling said. “We were playing with house money.”
With 17 seconds to play, on third down Alfaro tried a 30-yard field goal that was blocked by the Loggers coming off the left edge. The Cougars recovered the fumble and quickly set up for another field goal attempt from 42-yards out, which Alfaro hit to seal the win.
“Alfaro has the leg. I’m just really proud of my team,” Hotaling said. “The Eureka coaches were very upset after our field goal and came out to argue that there shouldn’t have been a second attempt.”
The official ruling upheld the second attempt and the field goal.
The Cougars’ victory sets up a rematch in a semifinal Friday at 7 p.m. against second-seed Cardinal Newman (9-2) at Santa Rosa Junior College.
The Cardinals and Cougars dominated the local football scene this season. If they play each other it will set up an unusual — if not unique — third meeting this season between them.
Rancho Cotate won the first meeting 41-28 on Oct. 23 and Cardinal Newman won the rematch 11 days later, 34-27, to win the North Bay League championship.
“This has been the craziest year imaginable, so it’s fitting that we would play Cardinal Newman a third time,” Hotaling said. “I expect a close game and our kids to compete like there is no tomorrow. We are going to have a blast and have a lot of fun.”
Against the Loggers, Rancho Cotate led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter, trailed at halftime 27-21 and trailed at the end of the third quarter 35-28.
The Cougars were led by quarterback Jake Simmons (17-of-26 passing for 305 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception) who threw for scores of 71, 75, 11 and 20 yards and had a rushing touchdown of 13 yards.
“Our offense had a lot of big plays,” Hotaling said. “Our defense battled. We had some guys that were banged up but we got the crucial stops when we needed them.”
Windsor 20, Livermore 9
In a Division 2 quarterfinal, the visiting fifth-seed Jaguars (5-5) scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to earn a hard-fought victory over the No. 4 seed Cowboys (4-8). Windsor trailed 9-7 at the end of the third quarter but cashed in two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter to turn it around.
With 1:48 to play, the Jaguars scored on a 14-yard reverse by Patrick Tappin. After Livermore returned the kickoff to the 50-yard line, Windsor cornerback Mikey Contreras had a pick-six for 71 yards to seal the win.
“We had key players step up in the fourth quarter,” Windsor coach Kevin Ballatore said. “In the second half we were moving the ball pretty good.”