Benefield: Piner football and quarterback Yonaton Isack on quite the ride
On Saturday morning, just hours removed from Piner High’s first loss of the season, first-year football coach Terence Bell insists he woke up feeling positive. Then he goes one better — he says he went to sleep Friday night, fresh off Santa Rosa High’s shocking 31-27 upset of the Prospectors, feeling pretty good.
He woke up sunny not because he wanted his team to lose but because he understands the power of a loss.
“A loss will stick with you, it’s got a hold on you and will motivate you,” he said. “I feel sorry for the team that gets us after this. They will be like, ‘Damn, I wish they had won.’”
For record-setting quarterback Yonaton Isack and the rest of the Prospectors, there remains an opportunity to bounce back from that stunning loss and make a run in the North Coast Section playoffs.
And the timing of Friday’s loss, by Bell’s reckoning, on the eve of the NCS playoff brackets being released Sunday, couldn’t be better.
“The losses we took last year? It’s driven them,” he said of a Prospectors varsity team that went 4-6 and junior varsity program that went 1-6-1. “The only thing this is, is a stark reminder. It came at just the right time.”
Make no mistake, Santa Rosa broke the Piner spell Friday. The Prospectors’ ride from years of mediocrity to the talk of the North Bay was taking on a life of its own. They were 9-0 and gunning for a North Bay League-Redwood Division banner before the Panthers knocked them down a peg.
It wasn’t just their wins, it was how they were doing it. The numbers they were putting on the board every week were outrageous: 500 points through nine games; a defense that gave up just 28 points (and 14 of those were to one team) and secured six shutouts.
So even though a resurgent Santa Rosa squad made the Prospectors look human Friday, something tells me this wasn’t a deathblow. A big piece of that belief comes because of what Bell has brought to the program in less than a year, and from a pair of brothers — senior Adrian and junior Isaac Torres — who are incredible athletes who star on both sides of the ball.
And it comes from the one guy who ties it all together: Isack, the Prospectors’ uniquely talented quarterback.
Isack’s rise from serviceable to something close to sparkling is just as compelling a story as Piner’s ascension.
So what do we know about No. 4?
The snippet of information that follows is not likely the first thing you need to know about Isack, but it feels important.
When I first spoke with Isack for this column, I asked about his family’s temporary relocation to Berkeley, where he had stayed after his home was under mandatory evacuation from the Kincade fire. He hadn’t yet answered the question when he turned it around, “How about you? Are you OK?”
This natural generosity, it should be noted, feels rare some days.
And you may not need to know this next anecdote either, but it, too, feels important. When I called Piner High’s track coach Jim Flores to ask about Isack, who as a junior ambled onto the track and proceeded to be a Swiss Army knife of an athlete for the Prospectors, a guy who worked hard without an audience, the coach lauded Isack’s athleticism but also said essentially that he wished he had a whole team full of Yonaton Isacks: Coachable, willing to do whatever is asked, generous.