Prep football: Santa Rosa High looking for season's 1st win

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Santa Rosa High School has the second-highest-rated quarterback in the North Bay League-Redwood Division, two rushers in the top 5 and three receivers in the top 10.

So why are the Panthers 0-3?

“Their record doesn’t reflect their toughness or their physicality,” said Brad Stibi, coach of the 2-1 Windsor Jaguars, the team Santa Rosa visits Friday in a nonleague football game.

The matchup promises to be a competitive, physical game as the Panthers seek their first victory of the year.

Santa Rosa coach Russell Ponce makes no excuses. In fact, he shoulders all the blame for the team’s underperformance.

“We’ve played really good at times, in stretches,” he said. “But we need to be more consistent for four quarters. We made mistakes that put us in a position to have to play perfect.”

The Panthers’ first game could have gone either way. In fact, Santa Rosa led 12-0, but allowed Analy to come back and take the lead. It seesawed until the Tigers scored on a 15-yard rush in overtime as Santa Rosa blitzed.

“I tried to over-coach,” Ponce said. “That’s on me.”

Petaluma won with a strong running game the Panthers couldn’t stop.

Last week, Santa Rosa lost to Ukiah, 35-22, after giving up the lead with three minutes left in the game.

“We spotted them a couple possessions and 13 points. We played really good for three quarters,” Ponce said.

Injuries have hit the Panthers hard, particular on the offensive and defensive lines, and less experienced backups are playing. But Ponce is looking ahead to divisional play when the starters get healthy.

“We’ve gotten stats, we’ve gotten big plays,” he said. “I’m not so concerned with the record. League is in front of us. That’s our No. 1 objective. If we can get healthy, keep improving and fix some things causing us to be inconsistent, we’ll be OK.”

The Panthers will have to contain Windsor quarterback Billy Boyle, who has thrown for 554 yards in three games — but has also has five interceptions.

Running back Lorenzo Leon is a weapon on the ground for the Jags, with his 80 yards per game and two touchdowns.

Nico Contreras leads the division in receiving yards and has nabbed four TDs in three games.

Stibi isn’t overlooking the Panthers.

“It’s going to be a good test for us. It really depends on what team comes out and wants to play the hardest,” he said.

As Windsor looks to run the ball, Santa Rosa will depend on quarterback Trevor Anderson, who has thrown for 926 yards and 11 TDs in three games.

Kent Gamble and Isidro Garcia will provide the run game, while receivers Roman Correa (4 TDs), Randy Clay (3) and Mason Frost (2) will stretch Windsor’s backfield.

Despite their winless start, the Panthers aren’t feeling sorry for themselves, Ponce said.

“They’ve done a great job of going to work every single day. It’s a lot easier to go to work when you’re rewarded with a win,” he said. “Kids these days are committed to football 11 months of the year. You want to see more payback for them. But they’re having fun. They’ve kept a great attitude.

“If we get everyone back, our depth will be strong and we’ll get there.”

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