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Santa Rosa High football coach Russell Ponce steps down

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Santa Rosa High School is looking for a new football coach after Russell Ponce confirmed he is leaving the program.

Ponce took over the program in 2017 for a second time, after serving as the Panthers coach from 2006 to 2009.

He had an up-and-down tenure with the Panthers this time, going 2-7 his first season and then 7-4 last year.

This year, too, had its highs and lows — starting out slowly but gaining momentum later in the season.

After quarterback Trevor Anderson broke his hand in October, the team went back to a run-heavy offense Ponce had used off and on for years. The combination of that and the addition of Mason Frost as running back pushed the Panthers to the top of the North Bay League-Redwood Division.

In the final regular-season game, Santa Rosa hosted Piner, which was looking to go undefeated and win the division crown with a final victory.

But Ponce’s wildcat offense and occasional use of Anderson, who had recovered by then, was enough to give the Prospectors their first, and only, loss of the season so far, 31-27.

It also gave Santa Rosa the divisional title and a guaranteed trip to the North Coast Section playoffs as the No. 8 seed. They lost to No. 1 Las Lomas, 56-0, last week and finished 4-6 overall and 3-0 in the division.

Ponce said he is looking forward to coaching his son’s teams.

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