NCS football playoffs: St. Helena locks down Healdsburg

By PETER FOURNIER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

ST. HELENA — Brandon Farrell knows when the postseason comes around, it’s anyone ballgame.

So don’t blame the St. Helena High football coach for seeing room to improve in the Saints 35-14 win over Healdsburg in the first round of the North Coast Section Division 4 playoffs.

“Records are thrown out the window,” he said. “You have to win to survive and I thought we did that.”

Farrell knows by example. His Saints went 10-0 in the regular season in 2011 and won a first-round playoff game only to be shown the door by the Greyhounds in the second round.

The Saints used 28 unanswered points to make sure that Healdsburg didn’t end their season for a second straight year.

St. Helena went 73 yards on five plays on its opening drive, aided by a horse-collar penalty flag, before Danny Brink’s 25-yard touchdown run put the Saints up 7-0 a little over four minutes into the first quarter.

The teams would trade punts on their next two drives before Healdsburg’s 12-play, 73-yard drive, capped by a Scott Reynolds 1-yard touchdown run, tied the game at 7-7.

It was at this point that Farrell thought things began to go his team’s way defensively.

“I though we settled in on defense after that one long drive that they had,” Farrell said.

The Saints shut out the Greyhounds from that point until there were 6 seconds left in regulation, when Tanner Cirstando rushed the ball in from 6 yards out for Healdsburg’s final touchdown.

Between those two touchdowns, it was all Saints, who did not waste time retaking the lead after that long Greyhounds drive.

Given 15 extra yards on a late hit out of bounds penalty, St. Helena running back Sebastian Segura’s first touchdown of the game, a 22-yard dash, put the Saints in front for the rest of the game.

St. Helena missed a chance to push their halftime advantage to two scores when Segura fumbled inside the Healdsburg 5-yard line with less than two minutes left to go in the second quarter.

“Offensively we just didn’t capitalize on some opportunities that we’re disappointed in, but at the same token, our defense in the second half gave us a lot of opportunities to score and we were able to take advantage a little bit better in the second half,” Farrell said.

Segura’s fumble ended up being a non-issue, as he rushed for two more touchdowns in the second half and finished with 116 rushing yards.

Healdsburg coach Todd Beth said he was proud with the way his team finished the season.

“We’re a young, young team,” he said. “We had seven sophomores this year. We’re kind of building for the future. Had a great group of seniors, just not very many of them.”

Beth said the penalties that helped the Saints’ field position on their first three scoring drives didn’t help.

“We got to play disciplined football,” he said. “The kids are playing hard. They aren’t trying to play dirty. It’s just one of those penalties that got called and kept their drives alive when we had them stopped. If you take those away, that’s three scores on drives that were aided by 15-yard penalties. That’s tough to overcome.”

Jared Walker led the Greyhounds with 108 rushing yards, 98 of which came in the first half.