Newman takes NBL-Oak clash over Rancho
ROHNERT PARK – In a football game that very well may decide the North Bay League-Oak Division title on Friday, Cardinal Newman took advantage of two Rancho Cotate turnovers to win 24-14 and continue its dominance in the league rivalry.
Despite being the first game on the league schedule, the marquee matchup between Newman and Rancho was seen as the possible unofficial title game. The Cardinals and Cougars have been the top two teams for most of the past 15 years in the NBL.
After the loss, Rancho coach Gehrig Hotaling told his players that, yes, this may have meant the Oak championship, but they should keep their eyes on a bigger prize - the North Coast Section playoffs.
“I’m so proud of you,” he told them. “You played with pride and poise. … This was one of the top five teams in all of Northern California.”
Newman is now 1-0 in the Oak and 5-1 overall, while Rancho falls to 3-3 and 0-1.
If not for a handful of plays, Hotaling said the Cougars would have been right there.
“We were close,” he said. “Four plays - a fluky interception, a fumble and two missed tackles on their touchdowns. … To be within 10 points of a team like that is fabulous.”
Following a scoreless first quarter, Newman built a 10-6 lead at halftime on a 43-yard Ethan Kollenborn field goal with less than a second left in the second quarter.
Newman put daylight between them after recovering a tipped Jared Stocker pass three minutes into the second half.
Shane Moran took the handoff from Newman quarterback Jake Pavitt up the middle of Rancho’s line, but spun out of a tackle and cut right, ?scampering up the sideline for a 34-yard touchdown and 17-6 Newman lead.
“The field goal was a huge momentum swing for us at the half,” Moran said. “Then at the half we dialed up our game plan and thought if we scored, the game could be ours.”
Rancho had a chance to take the lead early in the game after being given 25 yards and three first downs on five Newman offsides penalties in the Cougars’ first drive.
But the Cougars couldn’t capitalize, missing a 30-yard field goal attempt on a low kick.
On the Cardinals’ ensuing drive, a Rancho penalty gave new life to Newman when it stalled at fourth-and-one at its own 29 late in the first quarter.
Three plays later, on third-and-13, Pavitt hit Giancarlo Woods with a 29-yard pass along the left sideline, setting Newman up to score. Pavitt scored on a 3-yard keeper to put the Cardinals up, 7-0, after Kollenborn’s point-after.
Rancho answered, though, with a 10-play scoring drive that ate five minutes off the clock. Stocker connected with receiver Jack Reese on three key passes, including a 25-yard scoring pass that pulled the Cougars to 7-6 with five minutes left in the half.
Rancho missed another opportunity after the Cougars’ Garret Ridley hit Pavitt hard, popping the ball high in the air and into a scrum. The Cougars came away with the ball at their own 39, but went three-and-out and were forced to punt.
With 1:10 left in the half, Newman took over on its 26-yard-line and marched down the field with purpose, Pavitt rallying his team. The division’s leading passer, Pavitt rushed for 13 yards and threw for another 35 to set up the Cardinals again deep in Rancho territory.
With nine seconds left, Rancho tipped a pass, leaving Newman at Rancho’s 26 with seconds left.
With less than one second on the clock, the left-footed Kollenborn aced a 43-yard field goal to give Newman a 10-6 advantage at the half.
“I don’t feel the pressure,” he said. “I just don’t look up and I concentrate on my form.”
Rancho, and even some Newman players, were confused when the Cardinals, up 24-6 late in the fourth quarter, let?Rancho score a short touchdown and a two-point conversion after a long drive.
With a minute left and Rancho at third-and-goal at the 1, the Newman defense stood to each side and allowed Cougars’ running back Rasheed Rankin stroll into the end zone. They did the same on Rankin’s conversion run-in.
Neither Rankin, nor Hotaling, nor even some Newman players knew exactly what that meant.
Hearing that some might be insulted at a perceived “mercy score,” Pavitt said his team did not intend to mock their opponent.
“We cared more about how we played earlier on in the game,” he said. “We didn’t want to get anyone hurt. We meant no disrespect whatsoever.”
The win marks the Cardinals’ fifth straight win over Rancho. Since 2004, Newman has walked way the winner 14 of 17 meetings.
Rancho last won in 2014, the year they shared the league title. That was Newman’s last NBL loss. The Cardinals have lost only nine league contests since 2004.