Sonoma Valley shut down in second half

Sonoma's Sean Daly dives into the end zone after picking up a loose ball on a dropped lateral by San Rafael to score the first points in the opening moments against San Rafael High School in the first half of their game in Sonoma on Friday night September 3, 2010. (Scott Manchester / For The Press Democrat)

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

SONOMA — Blanked in the second half, Sonoma Valley fell, 24-13, to San Rafael as the Dragons suffered a disappointing home loss Friday night to open a season that could test the young team.

“We’re not sure about ourselves. One minute we compete real well and the next we make some mistakes,” said Sonoma Valley coach Mick O’Meara. “We can look good at times and other times we can give up a big play.”

The few bright spots for Sonoma Valley included a fumble recovery for a touchdown to take an early 6-0 lead, a pretty touchdown pass to end the first half, and the gutsy play of quarterback Sam Morgan in his first year on the varsity.

But the Dragons could muster little offense and were worn down by the Bulldogs with San Rafael’s offense scoring its last two times with the ball to turn the game around.

After a sack and fumble recovery to close the third quarter, San Rafael took advantage of the short field. The Bulldogs needed nine plays to go 25 yards, scoring on a 10-yard pass from Parker Shaw to Diego Camarillo.

Five minutes later Shaw took the ball in for a 5-yard touchdown to cap another nine-play series, this one covering 44 yards. The big play was a 17-yard run by Camarillo on a second-and-20 that kept the game clock running and led to a first down.

“We had good ball control the second half. The guys dug down deep,” said San Rafael coach Amil Hall. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. Our senior leadership made the difference.”

Yet the Bulldogs looked like the team lacking experience on the game’s first series. The Bulldogs muffed a backfield pass and Sonoma Valley’s Sean Daly ran the fumble in from 20 yards out for the score. But the Dragons missed the extra point attempt.

Controlling the clock with a balanced offense, San Rafael bounced back from the early turnover to take a 10-6 lead with 11:17 left in the first half.

Needing just four plays to go 58 yards, San Rafael scored on a 37-yard pass when Shaw hit Sterlin Reed in stride up the left side. San Rafael missed the PAT, but a running-into-the-kicker penalty gave the Bulldogs a second shot and Camarillo ran it in for two points.

The Bulldogs got on the scoreboard with a gift safety from Sonoma Valley on the Dragons’ first offensive series. On the second play, the snap from center went over Morgan and into end zone where the Dragons recovered.

On the Dragon’s lone offensive possession to produce a score, Sonoma Valley went 66 yards for a 13-10 lead with just 1:29 left in the second quarter.

The drive appeared bogged down when Yahya Muslim ran a draw up the middle and left for 32 yards. Three plays later, Morgan connected with Steve McGunagle on a well thrown 17-yard scoring pass to the left corner of the end zone.

Looking poised and able to take a hit, Morgan completed 9 of 16 passes for 63 yards and the score. He also totaled 22 yards on the ground in the second half.

“He’s an excellent competitor,” O’Meara said.

While the junior quarterback appears capable of leading the offense, Sonoma Valley’s running game was held in check and the Dragons’ defense allowed too many big plays. Santa Rosa might have scored more if not for drive-killing penalties and a missed field goal.

Another setback was the loss of Muslim to a left thigh bruise. The All-Empire back didn’t carry the ball in the second half.

A year ago, Sonoma Valley took a halftime lead and held off San Rafael to win the season opener on the road. The ending Friday night wasn’t to the Dragons’ liking.

Still, the Dragons have a competitive non-league schedule that could get them back on a winning track.

“We’re just trying to get better,” O’Meara said.

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.