Ukiah goes to the air to beat SR

Santa Rosa High Panthers football team. (Photo by Crista Jeremiason).

ByHOWARD SENZELL

FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

After losing to Montgomery, 35-14, last Friday, Ukiah coach Jeff Schueller had an epiphany.

“I’d been asking my offense to run the ball and the truth is, our line is just not big enough to give our running backs enough time to make plays,” Schueller said. “The more I thought about it, the more obvious it was that we had to become a passing team to be successful.”

On Friday night at Nevers Field, the new-look Wildcats abandoned the run in favor of the pass. The result: a 31-3 win over over Santa Rosa.

Quarterback Trevor Taylor’s passing was nearly perfect as he completed 20 of 27 passes for 288 yards.

“I’ve been nervous all week wondering if I was doing the right thing changing offenses in midseason,” second-year coach Jeff Schueller said. “After seeing how big Montgomery is up front, I was just convinced there was no way we’d be successful running the ball against bigger NBL teams.”

Schueller told his team about the change before practice last Monday. He advised Taylor to be prepared to throw a lot of passes in practice and he and his coaching staff began designing routes for leading receivers Aaron Dhuyvetter and Mason Colombo.

Against Santa Rosa, Ukiah took the opening kickoff and started at its own 10-yard line. The first eight plays were passes, six of those were complete.

Dhuyvetter then caught a pass for 17 yards to take the ball to the Santa Rosa eight-yard line. From there, the Wildcats went back to the run and three plays later, Ben Brooks bulled it over from the two. Cesar Mendoza kicked the extra kick.

Ukiah never trailed, although the final score is deceiving. It was only 10-3 going to the fourth quarter, but Santa Rosa tired and gave up three late touchdowns.

After a 1-3 start, Schueller said the Santa Rosa game was a must-win in order to have a chance at making the playoffs.

“This was a make-or-break for our season,” he said. “That’s why there was an urgency to try something different. The passing game worked out great. Taylor threw the ball well, our receivers got open and we’re excited again.”

Ukiah scored twice in the final two minutes to put an exclamation point on the victory. With 1:45 left Taylor found Kyle Hammond for a 37-yard TD and with 29 seconds remaining Stanley Wong intercepted a pass and ran it back 27 yards for the score.

Coach Les Richardson took the defeat hard.

“I’m shocked,” he said. “We’re undisciplined at times. Yes, we’re young but the coaches have to teach the kids to step up and battle back through adversity. I thought this would be a close game and we had a chance to win if we kept our mistakes to a minimum.”

Santa Rosa opened North Bay League play with a 62-0 win over Elsie Allen. Now, the Panthers are 2-3.

One bright spot was the return of Travis Baker. Three weeks ago, he was taken off the field in an ambulance. He complained of numbness, but the feeling came back once he reached the hospital. The senior did suffer a concussion, but received approval from his doctor to resume playing this week.

Baker converted two first downs in limited action.

Sophomore Jaray Hayes was leading rusher for Santa Rosa. He gained 86 yards on 19 carries. Ethan Rosselli had 68 on 13 carries.

Quarterback Kalen Rosselli completed six passes for 92 yards. Nick Keeton was his favorite receiver, collecting 63 yards.

Next Friday, both teams will be on the road. Santa Rosa visits Maria Carrillo and Ukiah travels to Cardinal Newman.