Cougars overwhelm Vikings, 56-18

By MIKE COIT

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Montgomery defense struggles to take down Rancho Cotate's Poueu Peleti-Gore on Friday. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / THE PD)

ROHNERT PARK — Operating on enough cylinders to power seven straight scores, Rancho Cotate dismantled Montgomery 56-18 at home Friday, putting a scare into North Bay League opponents.

If the Vikings were supposed to pose a test, the Cougars passed with a near perfect score.

“It feels good. I thought we had it in us. We just had to play hard and prove everyone wrong,” said running back Brian Dworkin, who had touchdown runs of 80- and 90 yards and threw for another.

Any doubts that Rancho Cotate’s strong start was the product of weaker opponents were soon erased under the lights.

Rancho Cotate had a four-touchdown lead after the first quarter and the Cougars never let up, only punting for the first time late in the third quarter.

An offensive machine with its triple option attack, Rancho Cotate also relied on a big play defense to manhandle Montgomery, recovering three Vikings’ fumbles and hauling in an interception.

“I couldn’t ask for a better game from our kids,” said Rancho Cotate coach Ed Conroy. “It kind of sets the tone for the rest of the league.”

While the Vikings had been improving, they could not stay with the Cougars. Their ranks thinned some by ineligible players and injuries, Montgomery still figured to keep the contest closer.

“They’re good,” said Montgomery coach Jason Franci. “They just execute very well and they have some very talented players.”

Rancho Cotate went to its bag of tricks on the game’s first play. Dworkin took a pitch, slid to the right and tossed a strike to a wide open Xavier Griffin who took it in for a 71-yard touchdown.

Griffin caught all four completions on the night for the Cougars, two for scores – his first on the season. This was a rare busy night for Rancho Cotate’s top receiving target.

“We just tried to throw them off guard so they don’t know what our strengths are,” Griffin said.

The triple option running game is Rancho Cotate’s strong suit and the Cougars were rolling up and down the field Friday.

After a Rancho Cotate interception on Montgomery’s second play, the Cougars went with their triple option.

Needing just four plays to go 46 yards, three players carried the ball with fullback Jason Celi going 30 yards for the score — just three minutes into the game.

Montgomery managed just two plays again, this time fumbling to give Rancho Cotate the ball on another short field. Going to the air again for a score, Poueu Peleti-Gore connected with Griffin on a 10-yard touchdown.

Clearly an explosive team on offense, Rancho Cotate’s defense forced a punt to give the Cougars offense another first quarter possession. A quartet of backs carried on the drive led by Peleti-Gore’s 40 yards with fullback Matt Hunn going in for the score.

Looking for a spark, Montgomery’s Alex Ciudad-Real scampered around left end for 53 yards and the Vikings initial first down going into the second quarter. A 17-yard pass from Curtis Ceniceros to Devante Love set up Ciudad-Real’s short touchdown run.

Answering back, Rancho Cotate saved its best runner for the game’s biggest play. Dworkin took a pitch and went up the right side, out running defenders on an 80-yard touchdown run.

Kicking was another Cougars’ strength. Julio Mata booted the second of his four touchbacks to pin Montgomery deep in the Vikings’ half of the field.

Rancho Cotate went 68 yards in seven plays for another score. The big plays were a 12-yard Peleti-Gore run and Dworkin’s 28-yard carry to set up Hunn’s second touchdown run.

Turnovers, as much as a lack of offense, hurt Montgomery. The Vikings’ second fumble led to a score by the fifth different Rancho Cotate player, as Ricky Shelton broke several tackles on a 22 yard touchdown run.

A penalty on fourth down kept a Vikings’ scoring drive alive. The 10 play, 80 yard march was culminated by a 30 yard scoring strike from Ceniceros to Antony Gebauer.

The final Vikings’ fumble stopped a promising drive to open the second half. On the next play, Dworkin blasted through the middle and up the right side for a 90 yard scoring run.

While the Vikings would score again, Rancho Cotate’s performance clearly makes the Cougars the NBL favorite until a league rival can slow the Cougars down.