THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Rick Krist knew what was coming. That’s the nut of it. The Petaluma coach knew what Analy would do on its first offensive play Friday night. Analy quarterback Will Smith would take the snap, drop back and throw the ball down the field for Kerr Johnson Jr. to run under it.
Petaluma knew it, prepared for it, was as ready as it could be for it. And then …
Smith threw the ball high, where only birds fly. He threw the ball deep, so far it looked like it was headed for the street.
Johnson ran under it and caught an 82-yard touchdown pass.
“Our defensive back had great coverage,” Krist said. “He gave outstanding effort. He played Johnson as well as he could play him. He’s (Johnson) just a unique weapon. We just couldn’t catch him.”
Sometimes it’s just talent that makes the difference. All the Xs and Os can’t match all the “oohs” and “aahs” when the other guy is physically better. That’s the way it was Friday when Analy beat Petaluma, 42-6, in the first round of the Division 3 North Coast Section playoffs.
As odd as this may read, the Petaluma kids gathered after the game and hooted and hollered and cheered. It was as if the Trojans had won. In a way they did. They had a 2-4 record at one point in the season, yet they made the playoffs and had the satisfaction of knowing they left nothing in the locker room.
“They were cheering, all right,” Krist said, “but they were crying, too. For a lot of them it was their last game together.”
If it’s any consolation for 5-6 Petaluma, it’s not a disgrace to lose to Analy, now 10-1. Friday was the eighth consecutive game the Tigers scored at least 42 points. The Tigers were up 35-0 at halftime. They played mostly the second string and the junior-varsity call-ups in the second half. There could have been a running clock at the beginning of the third quarter.
The statistics at halftime certainly hinted at a game so one-sided it wouldn’t have been an obscene thought to hit the running clock the minute the third quarter started.
The Tigers averaged 19 yards a play in the first half.
Analy ran just 15 plays in the first half, to Petaluma’s 42. Yet the Tigers accumulated 292 yards of total offense and six touchdowns by intermission.
“The last time we played them,” said Analy coach Dan Bourdon of the Nov. 1 game, a 42-13 Analy victory, “I felt Petaluma controlled the tempo most of the first half against us. We wanted to do something this time to set a different tempo.”
That would have been the go-for-broke pass to Johnson on the very first play?
“Yep,” Bourdon said. “He’s explosive.”
This is how explosive Johnson, the Analy junior, is: He caught only three passes. Only three passes. Hardly enough to note, you might think. Except those catches were for 82, 89 and 51 yards, the first two for touchdowns. That’s 222 yards of instant offense.
Not surprising Johnson thinks of scoring every time the ball is thrown to him.
“I think the same way about offense,” he said, “that I can throw a block to help our offense spring a play.”
There were moments in this game and in other games in which Johnson can tell by looking at the defensive back that the pass play called in the huddle is his, that he’ll make the catch, that he’ll gain big yards, that a touchdown is just seconds away.
“At times I can kinda feel I got this guy,” Johnson said.
Having such a dominating game in the opening round of the playoffs could create overconfidence, a sense of euphoria that could rob focus and preparation. That’s impossible to imagine in this case, because Analy’s NCS opponent next week will likely be Cardinal Newman. Newman plays Drake tonight and is heavily favored to win. Even before the game Friday night, conversation on the sideline among Analy supporters frequently made mention of Newman.
No one is exactly sure the last time Analy played Newman. Most think it’s been at least 20 years. This morning Bourdon and his staff will spend half the time watching Drake game film, the other watching Newman’s, with everyone hoping Newman wins.
“We will be playing the big dog (if Newman wins),” Bourdon said. “We’ll be excited. This will be the toughest game we’ll have this season.”
Bourdon has been curious all season as to how his team would fare against a perennial, well-coached winner. He most likely will get his wish next week.
“Finally,” he said. “Good.”
Competitors don’t shy away from a challenge. Like calling for a streak on the first play from scrimmage. When the other team knows it’ll happen. Yes, that’s a risk all right, until you see Kerr Johnson Jr. run.
You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.