Rancho rolls into semifinals

Rancho Cotate’s #22, left, and Yousef Khoury drop Clayton Valley’s Keki Dominguez for a loss in the second half Friday night. (SCOTT MANCHESTER / PD).

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rancho Cotate players heard all season the Cougars would throw more if they completed passes and on Friday early scores through the air helped spur the home team to an NCS playoff win over Clayton Valley.

When the running game got going again, Rancho Cotate took control of the contest with quarterback Poueu Peleti-Gore running for 39 and 59-yard touchdowns to take control in the final quarter of the 30-13 victory.

“We knew they would try to stop the running game. They did a good job in the first half so we just looked for passing routes,” Peleti-Gore said. “It’s different for us. We love to run.”
With his arm and legs plus good decision making in the triple option, Peleti-Gore again was a major factor in yet another win for Rancho Cotate as the Cougars reached the semifinals in the North Coast Section Division II playoffs.

“He was the pure difference in the game, every single thing that he does,” said Clayton Valley coach Herc Pardi. “He’s outstanding. He’s a game-changer.”

The Cougars’ defense, though, shared star billing in the game. With four sacks, five interceptions and a fumble recovery, Rancho Cotate kept Clayton Valley off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter.

Team leading tackler Vaimaa Taito helped carry the defensive push, sharing in a quarterback sack for a safety and picking off a pass to stop the Eagles’ initial drive of the second half.

“For the most part the defense had to step up,” he said. “We had really good run defense, but we got good coverage too.”

At the outset, Rancho Cotate’s offense appeared poised to take out Clayton Valley.

After a fumble ended a Cougars’ drive deep on the Eagles’ side, Rancho Cotate came back for a 59 yard touchdown connection of Peleti-Gore to Sean Fish, who jumped and snagged the ball after a defender tipped it away.

The pair was not done. Following another Clayton Valley punt, Rancho Cotate ran four times before Peleti-Gore hit Fish in the back of the end zone at the end of the first quarter. The scores were only the second and third touchdown pass and catches for those two this season, after connecting for eight a year ago.

“Our chemistry is just so good,” Peleti-Gore said. “That’s something our team tried to build.”

With the passing game humming, Rancho Cotate gained more than half its first half yards through the air.

“As I always tell our kids, it’s not about throwing it, but completing it,” said Rancho Cotate coach Ed Conroy. “We’d like to throw more, but we’ve got to complete them. We want the defense to respect that. You’ve got to throw it enough to keep them honest.”
Too many penalties and not enough blocking for the quarterback — Clayton Valley had eight sacks in the game — kept Rancho Cotate from pulling away until late.