Rancho Cotate High School’s explosive offense in the third quarter was too much for a struggling Maria Carrillo High School football team in the Cougars’ 56-14 win Friday in Santa Rosa.
Rancho (7-1, 2-1 in the North Bay League-Oak Division) used its one-two punch, Rasheed Rankin and Sumari Jones, to beat the Pumas (3-5, 0-3), who had lost three games in a row entering the night.
Maria Carrillo has had no trouble putting up points this season and was averaging 33 points per game before Friday’s loss. The problem for the Pumas has been stopping their opponent as they’ve allowed nearly 45 points per game, that includes 111 points in their last two match ups.
It has been almost the complete opposite for Rancho, who has knocked off nearly every opponent it has faced behind the strong legs and 6-foot-1, 210-pound frame of Rankin, who appears to get a first down on most carries, and the speed and elusiveness from 5-foot-10 Jones.
“Those kids are phenomenal, they’ve got great vision. I mean I’m so happy and proud they’re on our team and I love the two guys to death,” said head coach Gehrig Hotaling about his two-headed monster in the backfield. “And they’re improving, so that’s a good thing for us, a scary thing for opponents.”
It hasn’t just been the offense that has been impressive for the Cougars. Their defense has also been outstanding, allowing just 17.6 points-per-game. And that total is thrown off a bit by their one loss of the year, a 42-21 defeat to Cardinal Newman in the NBL-Oak opener two weeks earlier.
On Friday, a hard-fought first half by both teams changed drastically in the third quarter as the Cougars scored four touchdowns to put the game far out of the Pumas’ reach.
Rancho opened up the game passing the ball and Jared Stocker scored early on a 64-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Connor Barbato to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead.
Rancho started to feed Rankin late in the first quarter and he scored his first touchdown of the night on a 46-yard run untouched to extend the score to 14-0.
After a turnover on downs late in the first half, Jones’ 49-yard run put the Cougars in Pumas territory. Rankin capped off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown to give the Cougars a 21-0 lead, and Rancho was rolling.
But with less than 10 seconds left in the half, Maria Carrillo’s last-ditch effort to score paid off big with KC Kelly’s 89-yard touchdown pass reducing Rancho’s lead to 21-7 at the half.
The work Rancho put in it in the first half paid off big in the third quarter as the team came out firing, first scoring on a 50-yard touchdown pass to Barbato.
The Cougars followed that up with three rushing touchdowns from three different players, scoring on a 16-yard touchdown from Rankin, a 1-yard touchdown from Jones and a 6-yard touchdown from Elias Rantissi.
“We just wanted to play well, and we didn’t do that in the first half. We played OK. The second half, we kind of rediscovered ourselves and that was fun to watch,” Hotaling said.