Prep football: Rancho Cotate rallies past Windsor

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After two quarters of frustrating football, the Rancho Cotate High School Cougars used a big second half from their star quarterback — along with the wide receiver he’s been working with for a few years now — to find a rhythm against Windsor on Friday night for North Bay Oak League win No. 1.

The Cougars snapped a two-game losing streak thanks to a five-touchdown night — four in the air and one on the ground — from Jared Stocker, who had more than 200 yards passing (most of it to wide receiver Jack Reese) to take down the Jaguars 33-20 on the road at Tom Fitzgerald Field.

“We’ve been working together since sophomore-year JV,” Stocker said of his relationship with Reese. “We would always go out to the field on our own time and throw routes. We’ve been really grinding and working for this a long time now.”

The essential play the pair had been working on is a screen pass, and after multiple attempts Friday to turn the short-distance play into a big-moment pass, the pair got it to work in the third quarter for a 68-yard touchdown play, helping put the game out of reach.

Of course, the quarterback pushed all the credit for the screen success to Reese and his front five.

“I don’t really do anything on the screen pass. I just have to get it to him. He makes it all happen,” Stocker said. “He’s a phenomenal athlete. The offensive line, they hit all their blocks. The wide receivers, they hit all their blocks. It was a perfect play.”

Reese, who finished with seven catches for 125 yards, said that’s the play they’ve been trying to make happen for several games now.

“I’m glad we finally got that down,” Reese said. “We’re all finally syncing. We’re able to open up our pass game a lot more.”

Rancho coach Gehrig Hotaling said it was Stocker’s best game of his career. The senior’s offensive output included three touchdown passes to Brandon Proschold.

“Statistically, this is Stocker’s best game ever. He’s never thrown for four touchdowns and ran for another,” the coach said. “He played good. He made some mistakes, too … we kept plugging and kept trusting in him.”

A quick start by Rancho (4-3, 1-1 NBL Oak), thanks to Stocker’s 42-yard touchdown run, was all the Cougars could muster in the first quarter and most of the second as the Jaguars quickly took the lead.

Windsor (5-2, 1-1) got on the board thanks to a 15-yard touchdown pass from Billy Boyle to Nico Contreras and, on the second play of the Cougars’ ensuing drive, got a 22-yard interception return touchdown from Nico Zamora to take a 14-7 lead, shocking the Rancho sideline.

“We always talk about how, really, we are playing against ourselves,” Hotaling said. “And what we’re capable of and how we do, and not really so much who our opponent is. We came out tight in the first half. We were playing not to make mistakes.

Hotaling said the halftime discussion was very frank.

“‘Look man, first half is gone, and it’s now or never,’” he said he told his team. “‘Are we going to be 3-4? Are we going to play Windsor again on the road in the playoffs, or are we going to turn this thing around right now?’ And we did that.”

Rancho scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes of the half and used Stocker’s big pass to Reese to put the game away for good.

“It just felt like we were in control,” Windsor coach Brad Stibi said after the game. “Even at halftime, the kids felt they were going to be able to dive back in and finish. We just couldn’t get it done.”

The Cougars will look to carry the momentum over to a matchup with Maria Carrillo next Friday, while the Jaguars will face Cardinal Newman.

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