Article by Ryan Giacomini (Petaluma High School Class of 2022)
Dante Antonini’s Second Half Efforts Make the Difference for the Mustangs in Title Game
On Saturday, the St. Helena Saints (10-1, 6-0) traveled to Petaluma to take on the St. Vincent Mustangs (10-1, 3-1) in the NCS Division 7 championship game. St. Helena, a team that only allowed 86 points in their previous 11 games, allowed the Mustangs to score 54 in the title game en route to their 54-32 victory.
After trading possessions going into the fourth quarter, Antonini would pick off a pass that set up the essential game clinching drive.
Liam O’Hare scored easily on a 1st and goal to get into the end zone as the Mustangs would take a 47-18 lead over the Saints just 30 seconds into the final stanza that put the final nail in St. Helena’s coffin.
Mustangs head coach Trent Herzog was very emotional about the win.
“It’s the greatest feeling I’ve had in 28 years of coaching football, this is what you always shoot for and I’ve been in three of these games and we’ve lost all of them so this really meant something tonight,” Herzog said postgame.
The Saints got off to a rough start as they fumbled the opening kickoff and St. Vincent recovered. The Mustangs were stopped on a three and out and Gavin Tank Crestetto’s field goal gave them the quick 3-0 lead over the Saints.
St. Helena would try to get some points on the board with some good run plays by senior running back Harrison Ronayne but eventually would get stopped and punt the ball back to the Mustangs where their offense came to life.
The Mustangs put together a long and methodical drive including multiple good runs by senior running back Kai Hall and he would later punch it in the endzone on an 11 yard run to give the Mustangs a 10-0 lead but the Saints were not going to give up that easily.
On the last play of the first quarter, senior running back Ivan Robledo took a screen pass for 35 yards that would set up Ronayne for an 8 yard touchdown run to bring St. Helena to within four. Robledo finished the game with 226 all purpose yards and a touchdown and Ronayne would finish with 84 all purpose yards and a touchdown. The scoring would not stop there.
St. Vincent got the ball back on offense and with the help of a 30 yard kick return and a 22 yard quarterback keeper from senior quarterback Jaret Bosarge, it would lead to another touchdown from Kai Hall to give him his second of the night. This would push the Mustangs lead to 17-6.
The Saints would have a quick response including 61 rushing yards on two rushes from Robledo and he would punch it into the endzone. Following an unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt, the Mustang lead was five at 17-12.
St. Vincent would get the ball back and would pound the rock all the way down the field including multiple run plays from Hall and Bosarge. Bosarge would go untouched into the end zone on a 12-yard rushing touchdown. Another missed extra point made it a 10 point St. Vincent lead once again with 58 seconds left in the half.
The Saints needed to capitalize and would try some trickery on a double pass and it would be successful. The running back Ronayne would throw a 53 yard bomb to senior wide receiver Charlie Knight for a last second touchdown. Another unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt meant that the Mustangs had the lead 23-18 going into the half.
St. Vincent knew they had to capitalize on their opening drive of the second half. After a shaky start to the second half from the Mustangs including a run that went for negative yards and a false start, they were able to make a big play and score again to open the half. Borsarge would throw a 53 yard touchdown pass to Dante Antonini for the score. A two point conversion would push the lead to 31-18 thanks to an out route from Antonini.
On the ensuing St. Helena drive, Antonini came alive defensively as he forced a big fumble which was recovered by senior free safety Liam O’Hare and took it 41 yards before being pushed out of bounds on the Saints 12 yard line.
“It’s essential to score off of turnovers,” Herzog said. “When you get those opportunities in a championship game you have to turn those turnovers into points and we did tonight,”
Senior fullback Nathan Rooks would get all 12 yards remaining on the ground and the score to extend the lead. Two-point conversion is successful on the power run out of the wildcat formation from Antonini to build the 39-18 lead.
After picking up a first down, St. Helena didn’t get much else and got pushed into a 4th and 12 and a tough decision for St. Helena head coach Ian MacMillan. A fake punt didn’t fool St. Vincent as it only went for one yard and the Mustangs would take over at midfield.
The Saints kept fighting which resulted in a touchdown run from senior quarterback Spencer Printz to slim the Mustang lead to 47-26.
The Saints would score again with 2:44 left in the game on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Printz to Knight with just under three minutes left in the game to make it 47-32.
St. Vincent looked to run out the clock but on a wildcat run play for Antonini, a huge whole opened up and Antonini scored again from 46 yards out. They would tack on the extra point for the game’s final score with only 1:42 left to play.
St. Helena would run the clock out and as the final horn blew off, St. Vincent players dumped Coach Herzog with water as a congratulations on the big win.
It’s quite the turnaround for the Mustangs who were just 1-8 in 2017 before Herzog’s arrival. Over the last four years, St. Vincent is 28-8-1 with at least one more game to play in 2021.
St. Vincent moves on to the CIF playoffs and will match up against Argonaut in Jackson next Friday at 7:30. With a win, they would host a state championship game Dec. 11.