Empire notes: Santa Rosa High ground game paying dividends

What's in the water on Mendocino Avenue? The Santa Rosa High Panthers started their football season with four games where they gained less - way less - than 100 yards on the ground. They lost all four of those contests. In their fifth game, they rushed for 108 yards and still lost.

And then something changed. They ran for 278 yards in their win against Franklin High, then a season-high 479 against El Molino. (Remember senior Mason Frost's 439 yards rushing in that one?) A week later they ran for 455 against rival Montgomery and on Friday, in the upset of the season, the Panthers ran for 315 yards against previously unbeaten Piner.

That's a long way from the 16 yards they gained in their 67-12 loss against Windsor on Sept. 13. Leading the charge is senior Frost, in his first season of football. He's rushed for 1,098 yards and averages 137 yards per game. He's also got 13 touchdowns.

Kucer pacing the Mustangs

The No. 5 seed Middletown Mustangs knocked off the No. 4 seed Roseland University Prep Knights in the quarterfinals of the North Coast Section Division 1 girls' soccer tournament to earn a showdown with No. 1 seed Fortuna on Wednesday night at Fortuna High. The Mustangs are 19-3-1 after going undefeated and winning yet another North Central I League crown. The Mustangs are led by junior Sophie Kucer and her - this is not a typo - 50 goals. She also has 30 assists, by the way.

Panthers hope to defend soccer title

The Anderson Valley Panthers will try to defend their North Coast Section Division 3 boys soccer title Wednesday when they host Mendocino High at 2:30 p.m. The Panthers, who dominated their section from 2010-2015, beat Jewish Community School of San Francisco 2-1 last year to win their first title and end a two-year championship drought. They look to make it two in a row against the Cardinals.

Nuno wins again

Omar Nuno, a class of 2012 graduate of Healdsburg High who went on to star for the Santa Rosa Junior College men's soccer team and then at Chico State before signing a professional contract with the California United Strikers FC, celebrated the team's win in the National Independent Soccer Association West Coast Championship Sunday. Cal United beat L.A. Force in a penalty shootout.

Bear Cubs sprint into state

The Santa Rosa Junior College women's cross country team keeps on rolling. The Bear Cubs qualified as a team for the California Community College Athletic Association state championship meet Nov. 23 at Woodward Park in Fresno after their fourth-place finish at the NorCal meet at Toro Park in Salinas on Friday. The Bear Cubs were led by sophomore Evelin Ramirez, who ran at El Molino, and Katrina Frandsen, a Santa Rosa High grad. And how's this for consistency? The pair finished 18th and 19th, completing the 3-mile course in 19:55.2 and 19:55.4. On the men's side, freshmen Bailey Williams, a Tech High grad, and Nathan Hayes, who ran at Piner, qualified as individuals for the men's race. They finished the 4-mile course in 21:24 and 22:11.

Cardinals one game away from title contest

Cardinal Newman water polo earned the top seed in Division 2 North Coast Section play and will face No. 5 Alhambra High in one of two semifinal matchups at Amador Valley High School Wednesday. The Cardinals play at 5:15 p.m. The Cardinals, Vine Valley Athletic League champs, did not lose a league contest this season. They are the defending NCS Division 2 champs.

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