Benefield: Trojans battle back to win SCL showdown with El Molino, 49-26

By KERRY BENEFIELD

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Shellshocked. That’s how Petaluma High coach Rick Krist described the play of his Trojans during the opening quarter of football against visiting El Molino Friday night.

Petaluma won its Homecoming game 49-26 but took a pretty circuitous route to get there.

Petaluma's Michael Devincenzi bobbles the ball after intercepting it, but regains control as El Molino's Lani Gaspar tries to take him down during the game held at Petaluma High School, Friday, Oct. 17, 2014. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Petaluma’s Michael Devincenzi bobbles the ball after intercepting it, but regains control as El Molino’s Lani Gaspar tries to take him down during the game held at Petaluma High School, Friday, Oct. 17, 2014. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

The Trojans gave up 14 points to the Lions in the first quarter — in a matter of seconds as a matter of fact.

Lions workhorse Eddie Taylor ran 21 yards to get El Molino on the board just three minutes into the game. Then, on Petaluma’s first play from scrimmage, they fumbled and the Lions were back in business. Taylor, a slippery, quick runner who the guys in purple could not seem to corral, ran 59 yards for his second touchdown in 32 seconds.

But then the Trojans woke up. And senior wide receiver Michael Devincenzi was the alarm clock.

The Trojans got on the board behind Yusef Kawasami’s 3-yard run but, the game didn’t turn until Devincenzi picked off the Lions’ Steve Mori and ran it to the 1. Devincenzi would have had a pick-six, but he bobbled the ball out of bounds on the 1.

Kawasami did what he does and punched it in for the score on the next play, but it was Devincenzi who got the Trojans rolling.

“It was good because we had a really slow start, so that really helped,” Devincenzi said.

But the Lions refused to go away.

The scrappy Lions fought behind the even scrappier Taylor. The senior had 128 yards on 12 carries before leaving the game with an injury. He put up those numbers in 24 minutes of play — for a number of which he was hobbling.

“He’s a tough runner,” Krist said. “Their whole team is tough. This is a team that you are going to get the heart and soul of El Molino every time out.”

The Lions came out roaring, but they were simply worn down by the bigger, more plentiful Trojans.

A look to the sidelines told a story in itself.

There were 10 men wearing the red and black El Molino uniform on the visitors’ sideline. The home side? It was a sea of purple, with 22 guys rested and ready to enter the game.

Going both ways, full tilt all game can wear a team out.

But the Lions still had the heart to keep the game interesting.

On the opening kick of the second half, the Lions forced a Trojan fumble and were in business. A quick touchdown on a 31-yard pass from Mori to Lani Gaspar and failed extra point attempt made it 21-20 Trojans, but the game was never that close again.

But again, Devincenzi had seen enough of the resurgent Lions. He picked off another Mori pass as the Lions were marching down the field and this time he wouldn’t be stopped on the 1. The senior took it all of the way into the end zone for six.

Trojans team captain Greg Thomas then ran 55 yards for a touchdown and finished it off with a point-after boot for good measure.

Thomas was perfect on the night with his PATs — nailing seven for the Trojans. He also led the team with 125 rushing yards on 12 carries.

This was a game that had playoff implications for both teams.

The win moves Petaluma to 3-1 in league. El Molino drops to 2-1.
This time last season, a Trojan-versus-Lion game would not have been considered a marquee matchup. But with both teams on the rise and both teams featuring some special athletes, the game had an added air of importance.

If the Trojans are going to make a run at the playoffs, they can’t get into the habit of spotting teams 14 points within seconds of the opening quarter.

And as fun as it may be to watch the defensive heroics of Devincenzi, Krist and crew would probably like to keep the early game excitement to a minimum from here on out.

You can reach Staff Columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com and on Twitter @benefield.