By TED SILLANPAA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
PETALUMA — Salesian High’s football team got healthy at just the wrong time for St. Vincent.
De’Angelo Hernandez has been plagued by injury all season, as has the Pride’s offensive line, but the running back rushed for 223 yards and two touchdowns Saturday as Salesian earned a 42-21 first-round North Coast Section playoff win over the No. 4-seeded Mustangs (7-3).
“For the first eight games, we didn’t start the same offensive line two games in a row,” Salesian coach Chris Nightengale said after his fifth-seeded team advanced to play Division 5 No.1 seed Middletown next week. “They’ve finally been healthy for three games and we controlled the line of scrimmage today as a result.”
Boy, did Salesian control the line of scrimmage.
Hernandez, who was sidelined by an ankle injury through most of the season, led a ground game that accounted for 376 yards on 57 rushes — 6.6 yards per carry.
“They were just faster than we are,” St. Vincent coach Gary Galloway said. “We thought if we could take away the run and make them throw the ball, we’d be OK. But we couldn’t stop the run.”
Hernandez sparked a 13-play, 73-yard scoring drive to open the game. The Pride (6-5) held possession for 9 minutes, 33 seconds before Kameron Carr scored from 7 yards out. Diego Stern added the first of his six point-after kicks.
St. Vincent tied it quickly when Jack Richardson passed in the right flat to Patrick Garcia, who made the first defender miss and raced 53 yards for a touchdown. Richardson added the kick.
“The kid made a nice play on their first touchdown,” Nightengale said. “Each of their scores resulted in some way from a big play. You have to give St. Vincent credit. They’re a really talented, well-coached team.”
A 12-play, 73-yard drive led to Salesian’s second score. Hernandez followed a lead block by Galuega Toailoa 11 yards into the end zone with 3:54 left in the first half. With St. Vincent’s offense gaining just 3 yards on the ground in the first half, Salesian extended the lead before halftime.
It took the Pride 10 plays to go 53 yards. Facing fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line with just 15 seconds to play, Nakota Shepard-Creer made a diving catch of a Dominic Parella pass in the end zone.
“I thought our passing game was very effective,” Nightengale said after Shepard-Creer caught four passes for 32 yards. “We didn’t throw much, but we made plays when we did throw.”
St. Vincent put the game more in Richardson’s hands, using more read-option plays in the second half. The Mustangs scored on their opening possession. Derek Murphy raced 28 yards and Richardson’s kick cut the gap to 21-14.
“Murphy’s a good back, but Richardson’s the guy who really makes them go,” Nightengale said. “Every time he ran the read option in the second half and I thought, ‘Don’t pull the ball out,’ because we wouldn’t stop him, he pulled it out and gained yards.”
St. Vincent seemed to have momentum when Garcia recovered an onside kick. But the Mustangs couldn’t score just after Murphy’s touchdown. Hernandez immediately burst 51 yards for a score to return the Pride’s lead to two touchdowns.
“The game was closer than the final score,” Galloway said. “We were in the game throughout. I’m really proud of our players for hanging in there and being competitive. They kept coming back.”
Richardson’s 18-yard TD pass to Garcia cut the lead to 28-21 with 4:28 to go in the third period, but Salesian ran away after that. Vegas Shackelford’s interception set up a second Hernandez touchdown.
Then, with just seconds remaining in the game, Prentiss Reid picked off a pass and ran 91 yards to account for the final score.