By PETER FOURNIER
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
SONOMA — Sonoma Valley quarterback Dan Deely said it quite simply: “I wasn’t going to let our team lose tonight.”
Deely forced Sonoma Valley coach Mick O’Meara and assistant coach Mike Mulas to push back their retirement for at least one more game — a playoff game at that.
Facing a 14-0 deficit early in the second quarter, Deely rushed for two touchdowns and 96 yards, spearheading the Dragons’ 17-14 comeback victory in the Sonoma County League contest Friday night at Arnold Field.
O’Meara is calling it quits at the end of the season after 34 years on the Dragons’ sideline. Mulas, at O’Meara’s side for 29 years, is retiring as well.
Deely said the entire team did it all to win what will more than likely be O’Meara’s final home game.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Deely said. “We just left it all out. It was a huge win.”
With the win, Sonoma (7-3, 5-1) clinched second in the SCL. Petaluma (4-6, 4-2) finished third after winning just one game a year ago.
O’Meara said Deely bailed them out many, many times when the Sonoma offense seemed stagnant.
“Deely’s exceptional in terms of what he does on the field, the adjustments he makes, and he’s a player,” O’Meara said.
Petaluma spent eight minutes and 33 seconds on their first drive of the game, a 17-play, 77-yard drive that was topped off by a Sam Spurling 1-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal.
Sonoma would go three and out on its first offensive possession of the game. On the fourth down punt, Petaluma coaches screamed “danger” for Trojans players to get away from the punt which was kicked short, but a lucky bounce put it right into Petaluma special teamer Danny Murphy’s hands. Murphy returned the punt 29 yards to the Dragons’ 30.
Murphy’s return led to an Eric Hunsicker 6-yard touchdown catch on a lob from Patrick Bailey to give Petaluma a two-possession lead early in the second quarter.
On the second play of Sonoma’s ensuing drive, Deely found Dustin Sloane on a slant across the middle, and Sloane would run 63 yards to the Petaluma 13. Sloane, however, would fumble going to the ground and the Trojans recovered the ball.
The chance to pull ahead to a three-touchdown lead would be short lived, as Bailey was intercepted just five plays into the drive by Sonoma’s Skyler Marciel. Deely would run the ball into the end zone from 17 yards out on the first play and followed it up with a two-point conversion run to make it 14-8.
Deely later led an 11-play, 65-yard scoring drive, ending it with a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 14-14. Brennan Cole missed the extra point, which left the game tied at the half.
Cole redeemed himself with a 20-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that put Sonoma ahead for good.
“We’re very fortunate to win,” O’Meara said. “Petaluma does a great job. They always do. We always have great games with Petaluma and tonight was another. I was just fortunate that we came out three points ahead.”
Petaluma coach Rich Krist said the little things cost them in the end.
“I think everything that we game planned we did well, but we had some really, really key mistakes that really killed us,” he said.
O’Meara said he wasn’t feeling overly sentimental when the final horn sounded.
“I got a little sentimental right there at the end but it’s about the kids,” he said. “We’re just fortunate we’ve been successful these last five weeks and we get a chance to go to the playoffs. We get to play one more game, so that’s great.”