NCS football: St. Vincent prevails

 

St. Vincent de Paul's Jake Sablik pressures Calistoga's quarterback Jesus Curiel during the first round of playoffs held at St. Vincent de Paul, Nov. 20, 2010. St. Vincent de Paul beat Calistoga 48-6. Photo by Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat

By HOWARD SENZELL
The Press Democrat

PETALUMA — In a storybook ending, Calistoga would’ve beaten St. Vincent in the North Coast Section Division V football game Saturday afternoon at St. Vincent High.

Unfortunately for underdog Calistoga, the game was not destined to have a Hollywood ending. In an eight-day period in which the quarterback’s older brother was killed in an auto accident and their coach confirmed he was leaving the program, the Wildcats’ season ended with a 48-6 loss to host St. Vincent.

There wasn’t a dry eye among the players or the coaching staff as they knelt to pray at midfield after the game.

Then, one by one, the teary-eyed players stood in line for a long hug with departing coach Mike Ervin.

The nightmare began for Calistoga on Nov. 12. Earlier that night, the Wildcats lost a game at Tomales, 52-6, but that became inconsequential an hour later as the team bus approached the small town of Calistoga from Petrified Forest Road.

The sight of police cars and emergency personnel immediately caught the attention of the players and coaches. As the bus inched past the activity, one of the players yelled out that a car that had crashed near the road looked like that of quarterback Jesus Curiel’s brother, Eduardo.

With the players looking out the back of the bus until the flashing red lights of the police cars were no longer visible, the mood turned somber for the final three miles of the ride to the school.

When the bus arrived in the school parking lot, Curiel’s father was waiting for him. He and the team learned that his brother had been killed when his car went off the road as he was returning to Calistoga from watching his little brother play in Tomales.

The 25-year-old Eduardo, who also played for Calistoga when he was in high school, decided to leave the game early after his brother’s team fell behind by several touchdowns.

Coach Ervin gave his quarterback the option of whether or not to play against St. Vincent.

“My brother always said to me, ‘don’t worry about me, worry about yourself,’” Jesus Curiel said after the team post-game prayer. “He would’ve wanted me to play, not only for myself but for the team. I felt him with me.”

Every player on the team attended the funeral on Friday. Curiel did not practice on Thursday, the day of the viewing at the funeral home, or on Friday.

However, on Saturday, the 150-pound sophomore took every snap for Calistoga. He rushed for 26 yards and completed four passes.

“It was good for me to be out there,” he said as he walked slowly to his team’s dressing room. “I left it all on the field, just like Eddie would always tell me to do.

“I wish we could’ve executed better, but St. Vincent is just a better team than we are.”

St. Vincent had a moment of silence in honor of Eduardo Curiel before the game began.

Ervin, who returned to his alma mater five years ago to revive the football program, has done just that. In 2006, Calistoga did not have enough players to field a junior varsity team and there was no youth program league in the small community.

Now, the program is revived with a team that made the NCS playoffs. There’s also now a JV squad and a Pop Warner youth league.

“It’s time for me to move on,” Ervin said.

“Calistoga football is on the right path now,” he added.

If Ervin does coach again, he hopes he will never go through an eight-day period like he just went through.

“Losing a football game isn’t important when compared to losing a human life,” he said. “We’re all emotionally drained right now.”

Calistoga came out with a high level of energy and played St. Vincent even through one quarter. Then, the Wildcats began to unravel as the events of the past week began to take a toll against the more-talented Mustangs.

St. Vincent was opportunistic and turned a couple of fumbles into touchdowns. In the second quarter, the Mustangs scored 23 points. It was their biggest offensive quarter of the season.

“It was like you had a ball filled with air and punctured it with a needle,” Ervin related. “Little by little, all the air goes out. That’s what happened to our team.”

Calistoga (5-6) lost four fumbles; two were recovered by Sebastian Gallegos and one each by Derek Calabrese and freshman John Porchivina.

Quarterback Conor Brown had a career day for St. Vincent. The 5-foot-10 senior threw five touchdown passes, three of those to Calabrese.

“We started out a little slow,” Brown said, “but we were able to get in a good rhythm in the second quarter. The offensive line was giving me time to find open receivers. We’re playing better and this is the right time of the year to jell. We‘re excited.”

Brown completed 15 of 20 passes for 273 yards. His other TD passes were to Mike Meiswinkel and Jordan Cox.

Porchivina, in his third varsity game, spearheaded the rushing game with 77 yards on five carries.

St. Vincent (4-7), the No. 2 seed, travels to No. 3 Tomales for a semifinal match-up next Saturday. Tomales gets the home game because the Braves won the North Central League II title.