Prep football: Rancho Cotate can't overcome Campolindo

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MORAGA — The Rancho Cotate High football team found its rhythm too little, too late against fellow 2018 North Coast Section Division 2 semifinalist Campolindo on Friday night.

After forcing a big turnover at the end of the first half to stop a prospective third touchdown before the half for the East Bay Cougars, Rancho couldn’t carry the defensive momentum into the second half.

Campo scored twice more before the midpoint of the third quarter, and despite two early fourth-quarter scores, Rancho couldn’t catch up and fell 34-14 on a soupy fall night reminiscent of San Francisco rather than the locale where the contest was played, Moraga.

After Campo (5-1) jumped out to a two-touchdown lead in the second quarter following a scoreless first, they found themselves back driving in Rancho (3-2) territory in the waning seconds of the half. On second-and-3 from the 29-year-line, Campo quarterback Grant Harper threw the ball right into the hands of Rancho’s Sumari Jones, who dashed down the sideline into Campo territory.

Rancho couldn’t take advantage of the late second-half turnover, as two heaves toward the end zone by Rancho QB Jared Stocker fell incomplete before the halftime horn.

Campo didn’t hesitate after the second half horn. On the second play of the third quarter, running back Ryan O’Neil dashed 68 yards to give Campo a three-touchdown advantage.

Rancho turned the ball over on its next drive, and drove 63 yards in 6 plays, capped with a Will Windatt 13-yard touchdown to make it 27-0 less than six minutes into the half.

“They’re big, they’re strong, they’re a heck of a football team,” Rancho coach Gehrig Hotaling said. “We tried our best but we just couldn’t get control of the line of scrimmage.”

Rancho did find a rhythm late in the third and early in the fourth. Stocker capped an eight-play, 48-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to make it 27-7 on the first play of the fourth quarter. Rancho’s defense then forced a three-and-out and got the ball back in less than two minutes.

Stocker connected with wide receiver Jack Reese for a 40-yard completion, setting up first-and-goal at the 5, where Rasheed Rankin would run it into the end zone from on the next play to make it 27-14 with 8:30 to go in the contest.

“We got sparked,” Hotaling said. “It sparked our team, it sparked our sideline. We saw a little better effort and a little better execution after that.”

The energy would run out on the next drive, however. On fourth and 1 from the 29, Rancho jumped offsides, and three plays later, on third and 2, they did it again, giving Campo back-to-back first downs without a snap.

“If we can’t fix that, if we can’t go when the ball is snapped, we aren’t going to beat many teams this year,” Hotaling said.

Campo would score two plays later to put the game out of reach for good with 3:08 left.

“But it was too late with us not controlling the line of scrimmage in the first half and most of the third quarter,” Hotaling said. “That’s ultimately the story, that we couldn’t handle the line of scrimmage.”

The first-half mistakes, according to Hotaling, added up.

“Penalty here, wrong route there, pass protection error here,” he said. “Those kill drives. Ultimately it’s my responsibility. I’m responsible for the offense and we’ve got to do our best to straighten it out.”

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Rancho, with North Bay League-Oak Division play starting next week with a rivalry contest at home against Cardinal Newman scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m.

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