8-man football: Mendocino battles back to beat Anderson Valley

Mendocino's Reed Carter makes a touchdown run during a varsity eight-man football game between Mendocino and Anderson Valley High Schools, in Mendocino, Calif., on October 12, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

Mendocino High’s Reed Carter runs for a touchdown against Anderson Valley on Saturday, Oct. 12. (ALVIN JORNADA / For The Press Democrat)


MENDOCINO — With 8:22 left in the second quarter Saturday afternoon, the score was Anderson Valley, 22, Mendocino 0. This was Mendocino’s Homecoming. It was looking to becoming Mendocino’s Nightmare.

“Teams don’t usually do that to us,” said Mendocino coach Theron Miller. “It was a shock to me. I’m a defensive coach and I’m not used to that happening to our defense.”

Mendocino went into the game averaging 50.5 points in its first four games. Remaining calm, Miller asked his players to do the same. The Cardinals didn’t score all those points by luck. Mendocino dramatically proved that.

The Cardinals (5-0) remained undefeated when they won going away, 54-38, behind a trio of running backs who gained 430 yards among them. Reed Carter (211 yards), Preston Salmans (114) and Kyle Moore (105) carried the ball a combined 46 times for a 9.3-yard average per carry.

“That was the best game we ever played,” said Carter, playing his first game in three weeks, nursing a pulled groin muscle in his left leg. It was Carter’s 35-yard touchdown run with 1:43 left in the game that sealed the victory. Anderson Valley (4-2) had just scored on running back Jesus Hernandez’s fourth touchdown of the game, a 2-yard plunge with 3:33 left to make it Mendocino, 44-38.

Only 5-foot-1½, Hernandez used his 172 pounds in bulldog fashion. He gained 99 yards on 19 carries, flying low to the ground, not giving Mendocino much of a target. Hernandez appeared to be all helmet and thick legs. It was Hernandez’s running in the first quarter that supplied the momentum that took Anderson Valley to the early commanding lead.

“I feel my size is to my advantage,” Hernandez said. “It would take three players to bring me down.”

The turning point in the game occurred with 3:01 left in the second quarter. Anderson Valley was still leading 30-16. Mendocino was kicking off after Salmans had scored on a 20-yard run.

“The last time we had kicked off (when Carter scored on a 44-yarder with 8:00 left in the second quarter),” Miller said, “I noticed Anderson Valley was playing 15 yards away from our kicker.”

A kickoff only has to travel 10 yards to be recovered by the kicking team.

Salmans recovered the onside kick on the Anderson Valley 37 without anyone contesting it. It was such an easy recovery that the game officials huddled at midfield to make sure they saw what they saw, then ruling it was a legal play.
Seven plays after the onside kick Mendo’s Moore took a pitch from Carter and threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Salmans.

The Cardinals had scored 22 points in the last eight minutes of the second quarter and went into halftime trailing only, 30-22.

The game featured the top two teams in the eight-man NCL III. At season’s end the two teams with the best record will face off again in what is being called the Redwood Bowl. There is no eight-man NCS playoffs for NCL III teams.

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