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APACHES SIMPLY TOO SPEEDY FOR DRAGONS:SONOMA REGROUPS AFTER SLOW START, BUT PUNT RETURN FOR TD ON FINAL PLAY OF THIRD PERIOD SEALS VALLEJO WIN

SONOMA -- As the third quarter wound to a close, Sonoma Valley trailed

visiting Vallejo 10-3 in a slightly soggy game at Arnold Field on Friday

night. After falling behind 7-0 just five minutes into the game, the Dragons

had regrouped. Even as they punted back to the Apaches, they believed this

game was winnable.

But on the final play of the quarter, Vallejo's Rashad Ross fielded a punt

at his 45-yard line, got around the left corner, picked up a couple blocks and

was gone for a touchdown that made the score 17-3.

It was a tidy summation of Sonoma's 20-3 loss.

The Apaches weren't very disciplined, and weren't particularly crisp in

their execution. But with a little room to work in the open field, they were

simply too fast for the Dragons.

''They had speed everywhere,'' said Sonoma linebacker Mike Mulas, the 2007

Empire defensive player of the year.

That speed was especially noticeable when the Dragons had the ball.

Vallejo's pass rush off the edge was ferocious. Led by outside linebacker Joe

Pastrana, the Apaches seemed to be in Sonoma quarterback Jake Powers' face all

night. Powers was sacked eight times, and pressured into one of his worst

outings since he became the starting quarterback last year: 8 of 25 for 103

yards, with three interceptions.

''Offensively, we just made way too many mistakes,'' Sonoma coach Mick

O'Meara said. ''You can't beat anybody doing that.''

Ross, a dynamic player, had all three of the interceptions. He had long

returns on two of the picks; he brought back one of them about 35 yards for a

touchdown, but the return was called back for an illegal block in the back.

Ross also had a reverse-field run of about 50 yards that was called back for

another block in the back.

''No. 5's unbelievable,'' O'Meara said of Ross. ''He scored three

touchdowns in space last week. We tried to keep it away from him on kickoff

returns, and he almost went the distance there. They have some excellent

athletes. But they played well, too. They made some mistakes, but they only

had one turnover.''

That was another recurring theme of the evening. Vallejo (2-0) shot its

feet full of holes with 16 penalties, including several personal fouls. The

Apaches also seemed to have a difficult time with the slick field, and Sonoma

(0-2) stopped them on downs one time at the 1-yard line. In other words, the

result could have been a lot worse for the Dragons.

The game began miserably for Sonoma. After picking up one first down on

Powers' scramble, they lost yardage on three consecutive plays and had to

punt. On Vallejo's third offensive play, 6-2 quarterback Ronald Beverly hit

Robert Edmondson on a simple slant. Sonoma defensive back Andrew McGunable had

no deep help, and no chance of catching the speedy Edmondson, who rocketed 57

yards for a touchdown.

That was the only score of the first half.

In the third quarter, the teams traded field goals -- Vallejo's Caleb Natov

from 32 yards, and Sonoma's Sam Wallace from 28 -- before Ross' big punt

return. Natov added a 38-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

Sonoma did have several forays into Vallejo territory. The most promising

followed a fumble recovery by Mulas in the third quarter. The Dragons moved to

the Apaches' 10-yard line. But on third-and-1, the ball wound up on the ground

after a bad exchange, and Vallejo's Marcus Carter pounced on it.

Considering the firepower at Vallejo's disposal, it was a strong outing by

the Sonoma defense. Mulas & Co. limited the Apaches to 224 total yards. They

averaged only 2.9 yards per carry on the ground. ''Just keep 'em inside, keep

on pushing 'em to the inside backers,'' Mulas said. ''Don't let 'em get around

the corner, because once they get around the corner, they could turn it up

fast. For the most part, I think we did all right. We reminded our outside

backers every play, push 'em back in.''

Bullish runningback Nick Fedrick wound up with 98 yards on 19 carries for

Sonoma, and Steve Filippi, a dangerous receiver on the slant routes, had six

catches for 99 yards.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or

phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.

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