By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
ROHNERT PARK — Football playing friends convinced Christian Roberge to join Windsor’s varsity this season and the senior running back had another big game in the Jaguars convincing win at Rancho Cotate to open the section playoffs.
Providing consistent rushing yards to balance a strong Jaguars’ passing game, Roberge was difficult to bring down all night. Never tackled for a loss, Roberge also tossed a pass in the scoring drive that helped Windsor regain momentum for the 32-10 win on the road.
“My teammates are my brothers. We all work our hardest,” Roberge said. “Tonight we just did our job. We just took what the defense gave us.”
Windsor’s defense matched the offensive effort. Forcing six turnovers, Windsor twice snagged interceptions with the Cougars near the Jaguars goal line — the second Jalen Roman returned 99 yards for a touchdown. The Jaguars’ top receiver, Matt Basich, filling in for an injured defender, had three of Windsor’s five interceptions.
Rancho Cotate had kept the game close with a field goal to open the second half and controlling the ball with those deep drives to keep Windsor’s offense on the sidelines. Yet the Cougars could not make the big plays, ending the young teams up and down season.
“The turnovers hurt, but you can’t blame one person. We stayed in the game,” said defensive anchor Steven De Souza, who had two sacks in the contest. “Windsor’s a very good team.”
A good team, indeed, as Windsor is playing best when games count the most.
Defeating Montgomery in the North Bay League finale to qualify for the North Coast Section playoffs, Windsor is playing with confidence. The win over Rancho Cotate erased the bad taste of a lopsided loss against the Cougars to open league play.
Now the Jaguars get the winner of tonight’s Casa Grande-Alameda game in the second round of the NCS Division 2 playoffs.
“We came into it like it could be our last game,” said Roman, who led all receivers with 138 yards. “I wanted to stay confident and loose and give it my all for my teammates.”
Setting the tone early was Roberge, who touched the ball on half of Windsor’s plays in the Jaguars first drive to take a lead Windsor would not relinquish. Roberge finished with 68 yards rushing in the game and his one catch was a third-down grab to keep that opening drive alive.
“We felt in control this whole game,” Roberge said.
First, though, Windsor had to regain the lead following Rancho Cotate’s game tying drive on the Cougars second possession of the contest.
Fast back Carlos Franco peppered Windsor with runs and Rancho Cotate reached the end zone on a 38 yard pass from Gunner Mefferd to Chris Taylor-Yamanoha.
Respond the Jaguars did. Playing with a sense the game was there for the taking Windsor went on a 14-play drive featuring McAlvain at his scrambling best. The senior connected on slants and screens to keep moving the Jaguars, who converted a pair of third downs.
The third attempt ended with a Rancho Cotate sack. No bother — Jedi Tavares hit a 42-yard field goal with distance for much more.
Holding Rancho Cotate to a touchdown and leading by 10 points at half time, Windsor had to feel good. The Cougars scored more than 40 points in each of their past three games.
Yet the Jaguars would be forgiven any uneasiness early in the third quarter. A holding penalty and sack pushed Windsor back near their goal line, where the Jaguars punted.
With a short field, Rancho Cotate drove inside the Windsor 10. But the Cougars settled for a Kevin Nguyen 23-yard field goal.
Windsor came back with a 74 yard scoring drive, overcoming two holding penalties. The drive — including the Roberge pass to McAlvain and a fourth down conversion by Roberge — was capped by a Roman 30 yard scoring catch.
Game for a comeback, Rancho Cotate would take the ball down the field only to be stopped twice near the end zone.
So confident was Windsor that the Jaguars went for a fourth down conversion at their own 30 yard line. Windsor turned over the ball on downs. Still, Rancho Cotate would not score.
“We think we’re starting to peak now at the right time,” Roberge said.
Michael Coit can be reached at email@example.com.