By ERIC WITTMERSHAUS
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Big plays just before and just after halftime made all the difference in St. Helena’s 32-26 loss to visiting San Marin in Saturday night’s North Coast Section Division 4 football semifinal.
San Marin will face top-seeded Marin County Athletic League rival Justin Siena for the Division 4 title next week.
Quarterback Richard Hoppe, who sustained a concussion in the Saints’ win over Salesian last week, started and played well the whole game, coach Brandon Farrell said.
The two teams played a tight, back-and-forth contest for much of the first half, with the Saints taking a 13-12 lead that lasted only until the Mustangs scored a touchdown on their first play after the kickoff.
“We didn’t get to sit on any type of lead,” Farrell said.
Down 20-13 at the half, the Saints (11-2) went three-and-out on their first possession of the third quarter before No. 10 seed San Marin (7-6) scored on yet another big play.
“Instead of having a lead with the ball being up one point, we’re down by two scores after only having one possession,” Farrell said of the big plays.
But the Saints fought back. Sebastian Segura scored on a 3-yard run following a 63-yard dash by Hoppe to bring the Saints to within 26-20. But then San Marin recovered a fumbled punt and used the short field to take a 32-20 lead. St. Helena drew within 32-26 with eight minutes to play<NO1> but never got the ball again, as the Mustangs strung together first down after first down and wore out the clock.
Farrell said he was proud of his team, which advanced deeper into the NCS playoffs than 2011’s North Central League I champions. Farrell coached Hoppe, Danny and Joey Brink and Michael Crean for seven seasons across baseball and football.
“They’re very special to me,” Farrell said of his seniors. “I’m never going to forget them.”