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Santa Rosa stuns Piner, captures North Bay League-Redwood title

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It was a game of firsts, but probably not the ones most people expected.

In an emotional, back-and-forth high school football game, Santa Rosa upset visiting Piner, 31-27, on Friday night to mar the Prospectors’ undefeated, record-breaking season and snatch the North Bay League-Redwood Division title from Piner’s hands.

Tears flowed on both sides of the field after the stunning upset, with Piner players feeling the emptiness of a last-minute defeat and Santa Rosa exhaling from what has been a season of key injuries and early disappointments.

Panthers quarterback Trevor Anderson, freshly back from a broken throwing hand last month, connected with Roman Correa on a 15-yard touchdown pass with 36 seconds left in the game to put Santa Rosa ahead for good after four quarters of see-sawing that had Piner on its heels for the first time this year.

When Santa Rosa took a 6-0 lead on a reverse from Anderson to Randy Clay for a 41-yard touchdown four minutes into the game, it was only the second time Piner had ever trailed this year. Against Miramonte, the Prospectors were down 7-6 for about a minute, before running away with it and winning 53-14.

After trailing briefly at Santa Rosa, Piner righted its ship just 16 seconds later on the kickoff, when Isaac Torres grabbed the ball on the 18-yard line, paused for his blockers to get in position and ran 82 yards for a touchdown to put Piner up 7-6.

But Santa Rosa wasn’t about to let Piner dominate.

The Panthers threw a wildcat offense at the Prospectors, using the strength and speed of first-year running back Mason Frost and junior varsity call-up Carlitos Pardo, a sophomore.

They also used Anderson as a blocker, receiver and defensive threat.

Santa Rosa’s Andre Duvall, filling in for Anderson under center, hit Anderson for a 40-yard touchdown to go up 12-7. And Frost took a direct snap got around the corner and ran 65 yards for a score to put Santa Rosa up 18-7 at the half.

Santa Rosa scored more points Friday than any of the other nine teams Piner played, combined.

The tension was high on Piner’s sideline, as players for the first time this year felt on the defensive.

Coaches, though, rallied their players.

“What does pressure make?” one yelled at a player at the Panthers scored. “What does pressure make? Pressure makes diamonds.”

The Prospectors crawled to within four, 18-14, when quarterback Yonaton Isack hit Isaac Torres with a 37-yard pass, followed by Torres’ brother, Adrian, scoring on an eight-yard touchdown run.

After a defensive hold that rallied Piner’s energy, Isack connected with Sumail Berhe on a 30-yard TD to go up 20-18 at the half.

The Panthers replied with another Frost score, set up by his own 60-yard run, to retake the lead, 25-20.

Isack put his team up 27-25 midway through the third with a 29-yard keeper and an acrobatic dive into the end zone.

It appeared Piner was en route to another score when Isack connected with Isaac Torres on a 60-yard pass, which Torres caught between the hands of three defenders. But the ball popped out and Pardo grabbed it to give the Panthers hope.

Though Anderson wasn’t under center most of the night — letting Frost lead the offense — the senior quarterback retook the helm on the final drive, connecting on three of five passes, including the game-winner, a 15-yarder to Correa with less than a minute left.

Piner, with a new coaching staff and an entirely new energy this season, began building a successful program after years of mediocrity, leading with reluctant quarterback Isack and the Torres brothers, receiver Isaac and running back Adrian.

Piner was 9-0 overall and 3-0 in the NBL-Redwood. One more win Friday would cap a perfect season and propel the Prospectors into a top seed for the North Coast Section Division 4 playoffs.

Going into the game, the Prospectors had scored 500 points in nine games, an average of 56 a game. They’d given up a total of 28 points, an average of three. No one even scored against the Piner defense until week 5, when Miramonte put 14 points on the board.

Meanwhile, Santa Rosa lost its opening game in overtime to Analy, which went on to lose every other game this year. The Panthers lost the next four games before finally finding a groove and winning the next three games.

Isaac Torres and Isack were poised to set more school, North Coast and state records with big games Friday. Santa Rosa held both of them in check.

Although Piner threw up more impressive numbers all year than the Panthers, Piner was 3-0 and Santa Rosa 2-0 in league going into Friday, making the game the NBL-Redwood title game.

Experts saw Piner as a 35-point favorite.

“That was not going to happen,” Anderson said on the field after the win.

His teammate and longtime friend Frost stood next to him, teary-eyed and breathless.

“I’m just so amazed,” Frost said. “I’ve never been a part of such energy. I’ve never felt this in my whole life.”

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.

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