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The Rancho Cotate High School football team easily took down Ukiah High School 62-0 in a must-win game with major playoff implications on Friday night in Rohnert Park.

The two teams came in tied for second in the North Bay League-Oak Division, but the Cougars won decisively to claim that spot behind Cardinal Newman.

Rancho (9-1, 4-1 NBL-Oak) needed a win over Ukiah to give them the best odds to earn the No. 1 seed in the NCS Division 2 playoff brackets, which will be announced Sunday.

“We just wanted to play well. We knew that Ukiah has had a better season than they’ve had in a long time and we were up for the challenge and we just wanted to do everything we could to secure a high seed in the playoffs. I think we did that tonight,” said Rancho head coach Gehrig Hotaling.

The Cougars entered the game with the league’s leading passer, quarterback Jared Stocker, and the leading rusher, running back Rasheed Rankin. Their defense has been impressive also, allowing the Cougars to outscore their opponents 152-14 in the last three games.

The Wildcats came in with their own talented offense and a defense that had held their opponents to under 20 points per game.

That was before facing Rancho, which came out looking like a well-oiled machine and scored on the first drive with Stocker hitting wide receiver Connor Barbato on a swing pass that went for 38 yards and the touchdown to put the Cougars up 7-0.

A hiccup on the Cougars’ second drive ended with Ukiah’s Joseph Goodwin intercepting Stocker’s pass, but on the next possession for Rancho the offense was firing again and capped off another successful drive with a touchdown, this time from Rankin on a 9-yard rush to extend the score to 14-0.

Rancho took over in the second quarter right where it left off in the first, driving the ball down the field and finishing off the drive with Barbato’s second receiving touchdown of the game, this one off a 19-yard reception.

The senior Barbato, who has had a monster season on offense and defense, finished the game with three receiving touchdowns and one fumble recovery.

“He’s tremendous — awesome on offense and defense. He’s just a player, and I’m glad he’s on our team,” Hotaling said about Barbato.

It’s hard to say which group had a better half for the Cougars. The offense moved the ball well, but the defense continued to shut down the Wildcats, not allowing the visitors ever to leave their own side of the field.

On the next possession for Ukiah, that stingy defense struck quickly as Rancho’s Brandon Proschold intercepted quarterback Nate Johnson’s pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown to increase the Cougars’ lead to 28-0.

The rest of the first half continued that way for Rancho as Jared Stocker drove down the field for four more successful drives ending in; an 18-yard touchdown pass to Barbato, a 1-yard touchdown run from Rankin, and a pair of field goals from kicker Andrew Alfaro, one from 26 and another from 38 yards out.

“I wanted to get the win. I wanted to win by a lot, so we could get the (No. 1) seed,” Barbato said. “Our goal is to win a championship.”

The Cougars led 48-0 at halftime.

With the running clock in effect, Rancho was not ready to let the Wildcats get back into the game and scored two more times in the second half — on a 2-yard touchdown run and 1-yard score from running back Bryce Potter.

The Cougars walked away with the lopsided victory and now are awaiting Sunday’s playoff announcement.

“I’m just looking forward to Sunday to see where we’re at as far as seeding goes. It’s do or die now so things get real,” Hotaling said.

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