By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
HEALDSBURG — Petaluma made a huge statement on Friday that its football program is alive and well and will not go quietly into the night in the 2012 season.
Certainly, the visiting Trojans’ 33-20 drubbing of favored Healdsburg (3-3, 1-1) in an early SCL battle would indicate that Petaluma (2-4, 2-0) will make some noise in league play this season. In fact, after a win last week against Piner, Petaluma finds itself at least tied for first place in the SCL. This newfound Trojans success is coming on the heels of a one-win season in 2011 and an 0-4 non-league start this year.
“Hopefully we can keep it (the winning streak) rolling,” Petaluma coach Rich Krist said. “I am not surprised with this outcome … we are getting better every week.”
From the start Petaluma was functioning on all cylinders while Healdsburg seemed to be missing some juice in its battery.
Petaluma took a 26-2 halftime lead after its fourth touchdown was set up by an 85-yard punt return by Bradley Alvarez late in the second quarter.
“There were some great blocks on that return,” Krist said. “That was a great return, great effort.”
The Trojans extended their lead to 33-2 late in the third quarter, putting the game out of reach. Healdsburg scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter but it was much too late and for a comeback.
“Petaluma came out ready to play and we didn’t. They are a well-coached team,” Healdsburg coach Todd Beth said. “That’s what happens when you don’t play assignment football.”
Petaluma gashed Healdsburg with an effective ground game that chewed up yards and the clock and put the Trojans in firm control. The Trojans Sam Spurling (17 carries for 170 yards, two TDs) did most of the damage on the ground, including a 76-yard scoring run to put Petaluma up 13-0 in the first quarter.
“Number 37 (Spurling) is a fantastic ballplayer. He is tough,” Beth said. “Petaluma uses angles to create running lanes.”
The Trojans’ running backs, including Danny Murphy, who had a 25-yard scoring run prior to Spurling’s long jaunt, followed an offensive line that consistently pushed back the Greyhounds’ defensive front.
“Our offensive line has been playing well the past two weeks,” Krist said.
“We kept them (Healdsburg offense) off the field which was good.”
When the Greyhounds did have the ball they couldn’t do much with it for the first three quarters. Healdsburg could not sustain drives or build any momentum against a swarming Trojans defense.
“Against a team that runs a lot when you have opportunities on offense you have to capitalize and we didn’t,” Beth said.
One such moment came late in the third quarter when Healdsburg quarterback Scott Reynolds (16-29, 149 yards, one TD, one interception) found receiver Tanner Cristando wide open by 10 yards on a blown coverage by the Trojans. A sure touchdown was not to be as Cristando stumbled and fell down a step before catching the ball. That play was emblematic of Healdsburg’s night.
Cristando made amends in the fourth quarter, ripping the ball away from a Petaluma runner and taking it 65 yards for a defensive touchdown, but by then it was too late.
The big lead for the Trojans enabled them to empty their bench and get playing time for back-ups.
“We had an opportunity to play a lot of guys tonight,” Krist said. “I’m very happy.”
For Krist and his team perhaps the win signifies that the Trojans truly are back.
“Petaluma’s program never went away,” Beth said. “(Tonight) they had something to prove.”