By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
SEBASTOPOL — Analy, the preseason Sonoma County League favorite, was seeking to make a statement Friday against resurgent Piner. Consider the message sent.
Scoring on the opening kickoff and finding the end zone seven times on only 10 offensive plays in the first half, Analy is set up for another undefeated SCL campaign with the 53-6 victory.
“Last year set the mark. Defending our SCL title is important to us,” said Kerr Johnson, who scored four touchdowns on two catches and two kick returns. “But the goal is NCS.”
The road to a North Coast Section title will be difficult. Analy learned that last season, falling in the Division 3 semifinals.
Piner just wants to reach the playoffs. While the Analy defeat was humbling, the Prospectors remain focused on a winning season, already looking ahead to Sonoma Valley.
“This was a big game. We were confident,” said Piner quarterback Noel Hernandez. “But we just have to forget about this game and move on.”
Another challenger and another victory for Analy following last week’s win over Sonoma Valley.
Good depth and spirited competition for starting spots has helped Analy off to another strong season following last year’s one-loss campaign.
“We’re kind of young at some positions. But they get it. We hoped things would start to click by league,” said Analy coach Dan Bourdon.
Piner figured to pose a tough test, showing steady improvement and a winning record so far in coach John Antonio’s third season.
“This is the biggest game in the three years,” Antonio said. “We’ve been doing well. We felt like we could match up with them.”
Defense has been a Piner strength. So after winning the coin flip to start the game, the Prospectors decided to kick off.
Johnson dashed 87 yards, slipping a few would-be tacklers and only 14 seconds into the game Analy began stating its case for SCL supremacy.
Midway through the third quarter Johnson capped Analy’s scoring with a 40-yard punt return. In between were 76- and 32-yard touchdown catches from Will Smith.
Teams are targeting Johnson on kickoffs at their peril. With last season’s All-Empire Special Teams’ Player of the Year Ja’Narrick James at his side on kickoffs and punt returns, Johnson is doing his best to equal James’ standard. Johnson has three kick returns for scores on the season.
“We’ve got a friendly competition going. Every time I touch the ball I’ve got to do something,” Johnson said.
Another player with the touch is Smith. Starting again, last year’s junior varsity signal caller connected with four receivers on five completions for 162 yards and three scores in the first half.
Adding a pair of scores on three carries was James out of the backfield.
Recognizing the Tigers’ high-scoring offense would be a handful, Piner set out to control the clock and keep Analy on the sideline for long stretches.
Piner did just that following the opening kickoff touchdown. The Prospectors ran 14 plays, including nine runs, before giving the ball up on downs deep inside Analy’s half of the field.
“We had a really good week of practice,” Hernandez said. “It was working here and there tonight, but they have a good defense.”
Leading the Prospector’s improving ground game was Isiah Carter with a hard-earned 53 yards.
Still, the Tigers showed they didn’t need the ball for long with three scores on special teams including a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Alishua Johnson.
Piner’s opening drive was its best until driving for a touchdown on the game’s final play, on a throw from Hernandez to Niko Formosa.
Formosa had nine catches for 98 yards.
Ahtletic linebackers led another stingy Analy defensive effort.
“We fill and step up on the run game. Our defensive line was real strong. We didn’t give them any time to throw,” said Analy linebacker Trent Ackerman, who led the Tigers in tackles. “We just really wanted to make a statement that we’re the real deal.”
You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.