Cougars dominant in win against Piner

The Rancho Cotate defense takes down Piner's Stephen Roca during the game held at Piner High School, Oct. 2, 2010. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / PD)

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Piner head coach Matt Tomlin had two weeks to try to figure out a way to stop Rancho Cotate’s potent triple option veer offense.

Less than four minutes into Saturday’s game at the Prospectors’ field, Tomlin and his players realized it was going to be a frustrating afternoon. Rancho took the opening kickoff, and using the triple option, marched 70 yards in seven plays for a touchdown. It was an inkling of things to come.

When the smoke had cleared, Rancho Cotate had scored six offensive touchdowns using the triple option and defeated Piner, 49-6, in the North Bay League opener for both teams.
Rancho (3-1) is now averaging 41 points per game and has scored 49, 49 and 52 in its last three.

Against Piner, quarterback Ricky Garcia performed his ball-handling duties like a maestro. The 6-4 junior used so many options, the defensive players must’ve felt like they were trying to stop the wind.

Five different backs scored touchdowns in a variety of ways. Garcia got the first one on a third-down play from the Piner nine-yard line. He faked a handoff and then tucked the ball under his arm and scampered untouched to pay dirt.

The second TD came like a bolt of lightning. After Piner turned the ball over on downs at midfield, the option lateral went to Brian Dworkin. The senior took the ball wide and swatted away would-be tacklers for the second touchdown.

Rancho kept the Prospectors guessing where the ball would wind up the entire game.

“We just couldn’t stop them,” Tomlin conceded.

Piner had a bye last weekend and had extra time to prepare for Rancho’s offense and to get several players back from injury.

Rancho Coach Ed Conroy said for the triple option veer to work the way it did against Piner, each player on the offensive line has to make his block.

“We’ve been doing that the last three weeks and that’s what makes the option work so well,” Conroy said. The blockers know what option is coming while the defense has to wait and react.

Conroy singled out linemen Greg Connor, Chris Lemus, Jason Finale, Nick Reynolds, Joe Munayer and tight end Bryce Johnson for their blocking.

“It was a good effort by everyone,” Conroy said. “We’ve been working on how to play at the same high level no matter what the score or the opponent. We played that way against Piner, which makes me feel good about things heading into the NBL season.”

Dworkin was the top yardage man for the Cougars. The 175-pounder had nine rushes for 101 yards and scored on a 43-yard punt return in the third quarter.

In the two weeks between games, Piner did other things besides trying to figure out a way to stop the Rancho offense.

Sophomore quarterback Austin (Tex) Nahmens was brought up from the junior varsity, and he responded by completing eight of 13 passes for 106 yards.

After Piner averaged only eight points per game while losing its first three, Tomlin decided to change the offensive scheme.

“We had been trying to to run the spread offense, but we just didn’t have the players to make that work,” Tomlin said. “So, we simplified things to a double wing, and we just used six plays against Rancho. I think we’re going to find simplifying the offense is going to make us more competitive.

“This was the first time all season that I felt we played hard all four quarters. It’s days like this that make you proud to be a coach.”

Piner used razzle-dazzle to score its touchdown. One minute into the third quarter, the Prospectors ran a double reverse with Shane Riveras getting the ball and tossing it 61 yards to Israel Sanchez for the score.

For most of the game, Rancho’s defense kept Piner from threatening. Mike Tuaua led the way with 14 tackles and a fumble recovery. Junior Vaimaa Taito had 13 while Ricky Shelton was credited with 10.

Piner hosts Maria Carrillo on Saturday at 1 p.m. while Rancho entertains Montgomery on Friday night at 7:30.

Conroy scouted Montgomery’s victory over Ukiah on Friday night. The Vikings won that game, 35-14.

“They’re big and physical,” the coach said. “It’s going to be a good game.”