St. Vincent’s routs Tomales

St. Vincent's Aziz Atallah carries the ball against Tomales on Saturday / photo by Crista Jeremiason, Press Democrat

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

PETALUMA — Tomales coach Leon Feliciano could only smile and shake his head after his team’s stumbling performance at St. Vincent’s Yarbrough Field on Saturday.

“We’re not this bad,” Feliciano said. “We’re really not.”

He’s probably right. The Braves trashed Mission High 42-6 a week earlier, and went undefeated in the NCLII last year. Saturday though, moved from the misty, windswept hills of Tomales to a 90-degree day on synthetic turf, they were at their worst. An official Press Democrat tally had the Braves fumbling 13 times if you include muffed punts and kickoffs, and losing five, and that pretty much defined St. Vincent’s 35-8 victory in the Mustangs’ season debut.
Many of the fumbles came on center/quarterback exchanges, or on handoffs or pitchouts in Tomales’ double-wing offense.

“It’s really a simplistic offense,” Feliciano said. “We made it seem un-simplistic because we botched everything up. The timing’s off because the quarterback’s not getting a clean snap.”
St. Vincent coach Gary Galloway wasn’t ready to chalk up the victory as a lucky gift.

“We feel fortunate, but also, some of them our guys caused,” he said. “Because when I watched them play Mission last week, when they weren’t getting hit, they were flawless. And I was telling my guys, ‘I watched Tomales play last week, and they didn’t make any mistakes, didn’t have any penalties, very disciplined team.’”

Three of the Mustangs’ five touchdowns followed takeaways, but not the first one. Michael Meiswinkel took the ball to the Tomales 49-yard line with a fine return of the opening kickoff, then finished the drive with a nine-yard scoring catch from quarterback Conor Brown.

Less than five minutes later, Meiswinkel broke wide open over the middle, hauled in Brown’s pass, juked a defender and sped 53 yards for another touchdown. The senior receiver padded his total in the second quarter, catching a ball at the 1-yard line and spinning into the end zone to give St. Vincent a 21-0 lead.

Meiswinkel bruised his shoulder on that TD and played only sparingly in the second half. His final line: three catches, three touchdowns, 76 yards.

Meanwhile, the Braves were shooting themselves in the feet. Three of their four first-half possessions ended on fumbles, two of them in St. Vincent territory.
Any possibility that Feliciano had shamed his players into better ball protection at halftime died quickly after the break. Tomales had to scramble after an up-for-grabs kickoff to start the third quarter, and the Braves’ first play from scrimmage was a fumbled center exchange.

Still, after a scoreless third quarter and a piece of turnabout – Tomales’ Logan Calvi recovered a Mustangs’ fumble in the fourth – the Braves seemed to gather a ray of hope. Then things got even worse: three consecutive possessions, six total plays, three turnovers (an interception and two lost fumbles) inside the Tomales 30-yard line.

St. Vincent converted the first two into touchdowns on Brown’s pass to lanky Josh Mehta at the back of the end zone, and then on the quarterback’s 16-yard keeper. The rout was on.
Javier Isais’ 14-yard scoring pass to Chato Barajas with 1:59 left prevented a shutout.

After the game, Feliciano had a word of caution for the Redwood Empire’s small schools. He thinks this St. Vincent team is as good as last year’s squad, which went 9-4 and fell one step short of a North Coast Section DivisionV championship.

“I really thought this year – this year – that we had the athletes to match up with St. Vincent,” Feliciano said. “But we didn’t. I really thought we’d be decidedly more physical on the offensive and defensive lines. That wasn’t the case.”

Galloway doesn’t think his 2010 team is as deep as last year’s. But he’s thrilled with the way a group of athletes known more for their exploits in other sports has come together as a football team.

“My quarterback, his best sport is golf,” he said.

And he is pleasantly surprised with Aziz Atallah, who looked to be the Mustangs No.3 halfback but has moved into the No.1 spot, partly because standout Connor Ciocci’s career has been ended by a back condition.

Atallah carried 13 times for 72 yards, getting much of it between the tackles despite his 5-foot-9, 150-pound frame.
As for Tomales, Feliciano doesn’t want you to mourn his Braves.

“Win league, that’s our goal,” he said. “So we don’t go undefeated this year. There’s about a thousand other teams that ain’t going undefeated this year, let me tell you.”

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com