By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
SEBASTOPOL — To say Analy will be tough to beat this prep football season understates how strong the Tigers look heading into league play.
With a quick-strike offense and determined defense, the Tigers have shown few weaknesses in an undefeated nonleague slate capped by Friday’s 48-0 waxing of Santa Rosa.
Heading into Sonoma County League play, Analy looks like a heavy favorite to take the title and gain major momentum for the North Coast Section playoffs.
“Our goal is no regrets this season. We want to go undefeated,” said linebacker Zavi Ginella, a defensive anchor.
Confident, not cocky, the Tigers dismantled a high scoring Santa Rosa squad. Passing early and often, Analy took a three-touchdown lead at the half. Limiting Panthers powerful back Jahray Hayes from breaking big plays, Analy pulled away, aided mightily by recovering seven Santa Rosa fumbles — four of which led to Tigers touchdowns.
Stunned by the lopsided loss, Panthers players said they look forward to practice and preparing for next week’s North Bay League opener.
“We just have to get past this. We need to focus and work hard,” said quarterback and defensive back Vince Jones.
Despite the final score, the contest was competitive for two periods.
Analy scored on its first two possessions, passing on all but one play. Darin Newman connected with Dylan Mathias for a 32-yard touchdown pass, and then hit Kyle Lewis on a screen for a 15-yard score.
Santa Rosa did well to keep the score close, stopping the Tigers on three occasions near the Panthers’ end zone in the first half. Close coverage on deep balls kept Analy from an early blowout.
But the Panthers couldn’t gain much ground on offense. While the workhorse Hayes showed flashes of his strong yet elusive running ability, Analy defenders contained Hayes to 32 yards in the first half and 79 on the night.
“One defender will not bring that guy down. We had to wrap him up and wait for help,” Ginella said.
Yet the Tigers didn’t pack more defenders up front to concentrate on Santa Rosa’s formidable rushing game with Jones often running the option.
“We’re fast and we trust each other,” Ginella said.
Analy’s defense continually put the Tigers offense in position to pounce. A telling two-thirds of Analy’s possessions began on Santa Rosa’s half of the field.
With first year varsity quarterback Newman gaining confidence every game, Analy couldn’t be held down. Newman was 20-for-34 for 283 yards with five touchdowns.
The slashing Mathias caught eight balls for 102 yards and a pair of those scores. Tall and tough to bring down, Aaron Maher added six grabs for 82 yards and two touchdowns.
Balancing the air assault was the gritty Lewis running for 47 yards on nine carries.
A big Maher kickoff return to open the second half led to a quick Analy score and the Tigers reached the end zone on four consecutive possessions.
Yet while the Analy offense gets the glory, the defense will be crucial to winning a league championship.
“Putting up a goose egg tonight was great,” Ginella said.
Both squads open league play next week. Analy aims for a Sonoma County League title. Santa Rosa looks to win some games in the North Bay League.
“We’re going right into the league schedule and will be just fine,” said Santa Rosa coach Dave Duncan. “The players are confident.”