Padecky: No shame in Rancho loss

Rancho Cotate's Poueu Peleti-Gore finds a route around the Concord defense during the North Coast Section Division 2 championship game Saturday at the Oakland Coliseum.


OAKLAND — In the imperfect world that is sports, where you don’t always win, where human beings need to accept failure as a necessary and all-too-present risk, it ended magnificently for Rancho Cotate here Saturday night.

If a season has to end, better it end this way, where Rancho can say years from now it was part of something quite special. Of course the Cougars would never use the word “magnificently” to describe it. They wanted to beat Concord too badly to ever see a defeat as a magnificent performance. You have to give them that.

But magnificent was just what Rancho was at the Oakland Coliseum. It was a magnificent loss. The Cougars matched one of the most explosive offenses high school football has seen in quite a while and gave Concord such a run that a NCAA Division I-bound quarterback had to throw his fifth touchdown pass of the game — a 24-yarder with 16 seconds left — to beat them.

It was a magnificent loss — this is not a contradictory phrase — because Rancho did everything to hold and cherish and remember about this game, except the final score. The Cougars will have all the memories: of playing for the NCS title at the Oakland Coliseum, of playing a hot team, of taking them to the end, to the very end, only to see Rancho quarterback Poueu Peleti-Gore tackled at the Concord 21-yard line as time expired.

“You have no reason to hang your heads after a game like this,” Rancho coach Ed Conroy told his team after the game.

Truer words the man has never spoken. Even as Conroy was saying those words, players encircling him were crying. Yes, this one, this 40-37 defeat hurt, the kind of hurt that chills the bones, stays with you, that will always feel chilly, no matter even if it’s July and you’re under a blanket.

Yes, Xavier Griffin, a Cougar defensive back, very well could relive the climactic scene that occurred with 16 seconds left. Ricky Lloyd, the Concord quarterback who is going to Southern Mississippi but has all the skills to play in the Pac-10, threw the last of his 34 passes. Griffin was right on Concord wide receiver Sitani Malupo. Right there. Step-for-step.

Griffin took a swipe at the ball with his hand. His hand was about as close to the ball as the thickness of this newspaper. Malupo took the pass chest-high and went in. There was nothing else Griffin could have done. He was there. Right there, and a quarterback who is a big-time talent showed why he threw for 4,426 yards and 52 touchdowns this year.

Peleti-Gore also very well may find himself thinking more than once that if Rancho just had another 30 seconds, if he could have gotten the ball to Brian Dworkin just one more time, if the Cougars were just another 15 yards closer for a field goal, if … if … if …

When a team loses a game like this, when the victory is almost there, and then it’s gone, right out of its grasp, the ifs and the shoulds and the coulds will surface and will make every attempt to dilute the memories of Dworkin’s three touchdowns and Sean Fish’s two-touchdown catches and Fish’s interception of Lloyd that led to a touchdown.

The second-guessing and the tortuous replays will go on and on … for a while. Then, as time intercedes, when the entire game is remembered, when the Rancho guys finally put a little distance between Saturday and the pain, they will see they truly were magnificent, in every brilliant sense, and that the final score, well, they probably might find themselves having a hard time remembering it.

These magnificent Rancho Cotate athletes will see that the 2010 Division 2 NCS title game was much more than a final score, much more.