Padecky: Santa Rosa defies history with shutout win

Santa Rosa's Tyree Collins pushes past the Petaluma defense to rush into the end zone for a touchdown in the first half of Friday's game. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

By BOB PADECKY
PRESS DEMOCRAT SPORTS COLUMNIST

As for coaching their very first game of high school football Friday night, Rick Krist and Les Richardson will never forget where they were, what they saw, and how there is nothing so irrelevant as predicting the future in sports by referencing the past. History indeed doesn’t travel well in athletics which turned out to be the good news for Richardson and the Santa Rosa Panthers, and the bad news for Krist and the Petaluma Trojans.

The final score was Santa Rosa 13, Petaluma 0, and you might have predicted that result if you were loopy after too much espresso and three hours sleep. Santa Rosa, with two winning seasons in its last 20, beat Petaluma, who in 2009 posted the first undefeated regular season in the Empire in 14 years. Richardson, Santa Rosa’s sixth head coach in the last eight years, faced Krist, who replaced Steve Ellison who had been doing it for 30 years.

And yet …

Petaluma had a punt blocked, lost a fumble on its own 13, had a 70-yard punt return called back because of a penalty, lost a fumble in the end zone and had two passes intercepted.
Santa Rosa fumbled the ball, too. With 5:29 left in the game. Deep in Petaluma territory. But it doesn’t hurt sometimes to be more lucky than good — the Panthers not only recovered the ball, they made a first down as a result. That’s not exactly how Richardson drew it up on the chalkboard but then again, there was hardly anything typical, traditional or even remotely predictable about this game or the result.

The only two touchdowns scored in the game — a 13-yard run by Tyree Collins in the first quarter and a 14-yarder by Jaray Hayes in the fourth quarter — were done by two kids who had never played high school football.

“OK, guys, it’s doughnuts at 9:30 a.m.,” Richardson said to his team after the game. That was the carrot — er, pastry — the coach dangled in front of his players. Win and the baked goods are yours.

“I don’t know what to say,” said Richardson, a sentence that the man has rarely used in his life. The coach quickly regrouped.

Said Richardson: “Coming into the game I wondered: Who’s going to make the mistakes? Will it be us? Will it be them? What a way to start! That big zero up there (Petaluma’s score). That’s pretty impressive.”

Yes, that number! Krist couldn’t help but notice it as well. It was as unexpected, maybe even more so, that Santa Rosa winning.

“You just can’t turn the ball over,” Krist said. “The kids played hard. We got some things to clean up. We moved the ball well but we just couldn’t plug it in.”

Petaluma had only one starter returning from its 12-1 team (the loss was in the post-season).

Krist knew inexperience was going to be a factor. Krist also knows, as Richardson does as well, that this is the only first game of the season. One game does not make a year but in Santa Rosa’s case, there’s nothing wrong with eating an extra doughnut.

Yes, the Panthers got some breaks but good teams create their breaks. Are the Panthers a good team? No one knows yet. But Friday night they were good enough and, all things considered, good enough is enough.

“Baby steps, that’s what we took tonight,” Richardson said. “Baby steps.”

Actually, it was big baby steps because to toss a shutout is a nod to Richardson, who was Rancho’s defensive coordinator for 10 years. Unlikely? It didn’t cross his mind before the game.

“Can we battle back from adversity?” Richardson said before the game. “That’s what I want to know. I guess that’s what we are going to find out.”

As if he needed another surprise — Richardson never had to answer that question.

And I don’t think he was too sad about it.

For more on North Bay sports go to Bob Padecky’s blog at padecky.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.