Panthers tamed: Santa Rosa loses 50-16 to Deer Valley

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa's Vince Jones is pushed out of bounds during the Panthers' game against Deer Valley on Friday, September 20, 2013. (Photo by Conner Jay, The Press Democrat)

Santa Rosa’s Vince Jones is pushed out of bounds during the Panthers’ game against Deer Valley on Friday, September 20, 2013. (Photo by Conner Jay, The Press Democrat)

Not a broken down bus or shortened warmup could slow down Deer Valley in a convincing win Friday night at Santa Rosa.

Ranked among the Bay Area’s better teams, Deer Valley played like a seasoned squad setting up for a North Coast Section playoff run, scoring five touchdowns before Santa Rosa answered in the 50-16 win.

While a defeat in the third week follows last season’s pattern, once undefeated Santa Rosa is determined to rebound and finish with an eye for the section postseason.

“Deer Valley is really good. Last year we would give up in games like this. Tonight we kept fighting,” said Alfredo Carretero, who caught six passes in the contest. “We want to finish the season strong.”

Both teams were eager to play after a nearly hour-long delay to the start. One of Deer Valley’s buses broke down on the way from Antioch resulting in a shortened warm up period once the Wolverines arrived.

Still, opening the game with a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive, Deer Valley was clearly ready to go.

Deer Valley possessed too much speed and depth at the skill positions behind a young but improving line. With an offense averaging nearly 400 yards a game, Deer Valley was more than a match for Santa Rosa.

“Our core is strong,” said Deer Valley coach Rich Woods. “We like to control the line of scrimmage and establish the running game. Then we can open up the pass.”

Santa Rosa appeared game on the Panthers’ first drive, moving the ball deep inside the Deer Valley half of the field. Even when that possession stalled, the Panthers forced the Wolverines into a three-and-out punt.

Deer Valley would then score on four consecutive possessions. Santa Rosa finally answered on the arm of Vince Jones, who hit three different receivers with the last strike, to Devonte Manning, putting the Panthers on the scoreboard.

“This game was a big challenge for our kids. This is probably one of the better teams we’re going to face,” said Santa Rosa coach Dave Duncan.

The usually very productive Panthers run first offense could do little to dent the Deer Valley defense. Jahi Hayes was banged up early and was helped off the field in the second half, finishing with 29 yards on 15 carries.

Yielding little on the scoreboard to opponents this season Deer Valley’s defense put up another strong effort.

“Our defensive line stood up and played tough,” Woods said. “Santa Rosa gets off the ball well and they attack pretty good. We just had to get the ball and keep our offense on the field.”

A strong start to the season had Santa Rosa ready for the powerful Deer Valley team.

While the offense has been scoring in bunches, defense figured to be Santa Rosa’s strength against the fast and seasoned Wolverines. Santa Rosa’s most athletic, experienced players are on defense.

Limiting the Wolverines to a pair of touchdowns in the second half is a positive out of the one-sided loss.

One reason for Santa Rosa’s success was a long second half, opening drive that went seven minutes, capped by a Diego Morfin 42-yard field goal.

What the Panthers must work on beginning with film study today is stronger blocking, more sure tackling, and sharper focus all around, Carretero said.

The two-year starter and senior is confident the Panthers will improve on a 2-1 start. “A lot of us are way more committed than last year. We just need everybody to step up,” he said.

Michael Coit can be reached at Mike.Coit@PressDemocrat.com

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