Rancho Cotate 43, Windsor 9: Cougars run wild in dominant victory

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

WINDSOR — Once the Rancho Cotate Cougars stopped thwarting themselves Friday, it didn’t take them long to discover that Windsor couldn’t really stop them either.

In the North Bay League opener for each of these new intra-league foes, Rancho bounced back from a couple of early turnovers and ran away with a 43-9 victory behind 387 rushing yards and Jalon Luque’s three touchdowns.

It was a battle of mentor and protégé. Windsor coach Vic Amick played for Ed Conroy at Rancho Cotate. Friday they matched wits from opposite sidelines, and afterward posed for a photo together on the field.

“It was nice,” Conroy said. “When he played for me, he said, ‘Hey, Coach, I hope to coach against you sometime.’ So here we go.”

It might not have been as fun as Amick had anticipated, mostly because Conroy had more talented players.

The Cougars’ defensive line harried Windsor quarterback Derek Hensley much of the night, sacking him four times and batting down several passes at the line of scrimmage. On the other side of the ball, Rancho had a potent one-two punch at running back. Luque, frustratingly elusive and surprisingly strong, had 135 yards on 14 carries; hard-running Tommy Cavallero added 96 years on 11 attempts.

“Their O-line’s great,” Amick said. “O-line, D-line, they’re monsters up front.”

It didn’t help the Jaguars’ cause when starting center Christian Delagnes was helped off the field in the second quarter, most likely with a torn MCL, and speedy playmaker Trey Tobon left with a concussion.

Rancho quarterback Michael Courchaine threw only 10 passes, but one of them was a 57-yard scoring strike to Carlos Soto. Courchaine set up another touchdown with a 61-yard run.

Things didn’t start out very efficiently for either team. Hensley’s second pass was intercepted by Rancho Cotate’s Soto. Minutes later, Courchaine’s first pass was picked off by the Jaguars’ Mike Piazza, a ball-stealing machine during Windsor’s North Coast Section championship run last year.

The next time Rancho got the ball, Courchaine fumbled a shotgun snap and it was recovered by the Jaguars’ Michael Gower, setting up a 25-yard field goal by Paris Henry seven minutes into the game.

Windsor had struck first, going up 3-0 and giving the home crowd thoughts of an upset.

Then the Cougars got rolling. They had nine more possessions over the course of the game and scored seven times: runs of 1 and 23 yards by senior Luque, a 23-yard scamper by the senior, a 37-yard field goal by Rodrigo Perez, a 17-yard run by Fono Misi (his only carry of the night), Soto’s long scoring reception, a one-cut run of 21 yards by Luque and an 8-yard keeper by third-string quarterback Gunner Mefferd late in the game.

“We ended up getting in our veer and running our veer stuff, and the kids executed really well,” Conroy said. “And then we came back to the shotgun stuff later. Hey, we got kicked off the horse, and they we get back on and ride it again.”

The only times Rancho Cotate was kept off the scoreboard after those early turnovers was on Perez’s missed 52-yard field-goal attempt as time expired in the first half, and when Windsor stopped the Cougars on downs in the fourth quarter, with the game well in hand.

The Jaguars, taking a step back from their first undefeated season, scored a touchdown on a 99-yard kickoff return byChad Tolson. They are now 1-3.

Rancho improved to 4-0 and has won its past three games by a combined score of 138-21. It’s hard to say exactly how good the Cougars are, because they haven’t really been tested yet — and might not be until an Oct. 12 game against Casa Grande.

Conroy is hoping to keep the momentum going before then.

“We tell ’em, it starts with a little wave, a little pebble,” Conroy said. “And we tell ’em, we want to turn that thing into a tsunami.”

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.