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NCS football playoffs: End of the road for Lower Lake

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NAPA — It’s hard not to consider the 2019 football season a success for Lower Lake High School, despite the 55-14 defeat in the first round of the North Coast Section Division 6 playoffs against Justin-Siena at Dodd Stadium in Napa on Friday night.

Anytime you flip the script from 2-8 middling Lake County cannon fodder to 7-4 playoff contender is a proverbial success. But the loss of multiple offensive linemen — three starters, one due to injury, another due to an ejection and another for academic ineligibility — and two other starters on the team ultimately ended up just being another detriment against a talented Braves team.

“It’s tough to overcome losing five starters the last two weeks of the season,” coach Jeremy Jakubowski said. “You had five or six sophomores who came out and had their first varsity experience in the playoffs. I’m proud of those boys.”

The Trojans started off the night in the hole. On the second play of its first possession, quarterback Vann Wilkins was intercepted — after a pair of his receivers appeared to cross up their routes — by Justin-Siena’s Miles Williams, who returned it 32 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Braves lead 25 seconds into the game.

Justin-Siena added two more touchdowns by the end of the first quarter, leading 21-0 early in the second when Lower Lake appeared to turn the corner. Wilkins connected with Gavin Watson for a 40-yard touchdown pass, but Watson ended up being penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after turning around and taunting the Braves’ defenders.

Watson got into a disagreement while speaking to coaches on the sideline after the penalty, and was ultimately told to sit until he “cooled off,” per Jakubowksi. Watson did return for the second half.

“The kid is a passionate kid,” Jakubowksi said. “After that, I felt there was a lot of bad energy on our sideline that translated a little bit. He’s one of our most dynamic players and he’s sitting on the sideline for the rest of the half.

“He apologized to all the coaches at the half. He came over and talked to me for 15 minutes at halftime. We ironed it all out.”

Later in the third quarter, Wilkins connected with Semaj Clark for a 43-yard touchdown pass, but it was negated due to a chop-block penalty. Wilkins was then penalized for intentional grounding and multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were assessed on the same play, placing the ball at the Lower Lake 7 for a second-and-61.

The in-reverse drive in the second half summed up a contest where the Trojans always appeared ready to strike with deep threats, but couldn’t contend with a superior Justin-Siena squad for a full 48 minutes.

Clark ended up finish with four catches for 104 yards, highlighted by a 33-yard reception touchdown in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.

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