SANTA ROSA, Calif – An instant classic was brewing all game and it was that and even more in front of a packed house. A cold, fall, and championship-like night at Ernie Neivers Field at Santa Rosa High School produced the biggest upset in Sonoma County, as Santa Rosa knocked off previously undefeated Piner, 31-27 in the NBL-Redwood Championship game.
Trevor Anderson’s 16 yard pass to Roman Correa with just 30 seconds remaining put Santa Rosa ahead for good.
Piner wasn’t out of it, but on the first play, Yonaton Isack’s pass was intercepted by sophomore Carlitos Pardo, who had just been pulled up from JV to seal the Panthers’ championship.
“We knew what the projection said. It said we were gonna lose by a lot. We knew that wasn’t gonna happen. We watched a ton of film all week,” said Santa Rosa QB Trevor Anderson.
“We all stepped up and did what we needed to do to win,” Anderson commented further.
“We expected to win all week. We had that mindset,” said Santa Rosa RB Mason Frost.
“Piner is a very tough and physical team. They played their butt off tonight,” said Santa Rosa head coach Russel Ponce.
“That was a hell of a play. I got to give Roman credit on that,” said Piner head coach Terrence Bell
Santa Rosa (4-5, 3-0) sure looked good early on. Their defense forced Piner on a three-and-out on their first drive, and then scored on a 41 yard reverse touchdown that had the Prospector defense fooled. Randy Clay had the honors of bringing that touchdown home to make it 6-0 Panthers.
So now you’re thinking that Piner is finally losing for the first time all year. It didn’t take long for them to gain it back. In fact, 16 seconds. Issac Torres took the next kickoff back 82 yards for a touchdown to put the Prospectors back on top 7-6.
Randy Clay then found his normal QB Anderson for a 40 yard touchdown completion to put Santa Rosa back on top 12-7.
“I wasn’t supposed to throw. We were going to use that wildcat offense,” said Anderson.
After an interception by Anderson, Frost scored out of the wildcat formation on a 65 yard run to extend the lead to 18-7 Santa Rosa at the end of the opening quarter.
Piner (9-1, 2-1) was having none of it. After a fiery talking to his team by Bell, the Prospectors responded, but it wasn’t right away. With 5:35 to go in the half, Adrian Torres sprinted in from eight yards out to bring them to within four.
After Piner got the ball back, Isack found Sumail Berhe for a 30 yard touchdown completion just two minutes later to put them back on top 20-18 before heading into a warm locker room for halftime. Temperatures dropped well into the 40’s before the night was over.
Santa Rosa received the second half kickoff and took advantage. Frost set them up beautifully with a 60 yard run to get them inside the five, and then finished the drive with a two yard scamper to put his team back on top 25-20.
Isack, with 6:32 remaining in the third, scrambled 29 yards on his way to a touchdown to put Piner back on top 27-25.
“We looked at this as just another ballgame. We knew the narrative coming in, but the truth is far from the narrative. Our offense was rolling in the second half of the season,” Ponce said
“If I would’ve told you three months ago, that Piner would be 9-1 and in a spot to win a league championship, no one would’ve believed me. These kids changed Piner. The school is alive again.,” Bell said
“I told my team after the game, losses are what makes you winners. That’s why I believe we’ve been so good this year. Piner had been losing for so long and our guys believed they were the best all year,” Bell commented further.
Santa Rosa will await NCS Seedings in the Division 3 bracket. With them winning their league, someone will have to be booted out of the bracket.
Piner finishes with a good enough record for a Division 4 berth, but the loss could kill the chances of a home game without the league championship in their pocket. We will find out how far they drop when seedings are released on Sunday.
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