Cougars rally to hand Jaguars first loss of season

By ALLIE COLOSKY
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Rancho Cotate football team rallied in the second half and handed Windsor High School their first loss of the season, beating the Jaguars 30-19 Friday night in Windsor.

“Early on, I was worried,” Rancho Cotate head coach Ed Conroy said. “We were flat and unemotional and we had a talk about it. We knew they were going to play at a really high level and we had to respond.”

Rancho Cotate's Carlos Franco runs the ball between Windsor's Braxton Canady, left, and Austin Evans, right, during the game held at Windsor High School, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Rancho Cotate’s Carlos Franco runs the ball between Windsor’s Braxton Canady, left, and Austin Evans, right, during the game held at Windsor High School, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Mitchell Bruning got the Jaguars on the board early, after he blocked the Cougars’ first punt and scrambled the last three yards for the touchdown.

Jalen Roman carried the ball for a touchdown and then a field goal from Gedi Tavares gave the Jaguars a 16-0 lead at the end of the first half.

The difference was in the execution after half time, as the Cougars were able to play for the entire four quarters, Windsor head coach Vic Amick said.

“We came out all guns blazing and it really was the best-case scenario for us,” he said. “Hats off to Rancho for competing all four quarters.”

The Cougars found the missing spark and ignited their offense to open the second half, as Mo Ward recorded all five carries of his carries for 38 yards in the second half.

Quarterback Gunner Mefferd said he felt everything click after they were in the right mindset.

“I just realized that we were getting in our own heads,” he said. “We just needed to relax.”

Mefferd carried the ball for one yard and the Cougars’ first touchdown, as Carlos Franco completed the two-point conversion.

“I just saw my teammates’ heads down and had to bring them up,” he said. “It feels so great to beat them (Windsor).”

Franco then helped close the gap on Windsor’s lead, as a 25-yard touchdown and Cooper Nicks’ two-point conversion tied the game at 16.

“It messed with our heads,” Franco explained about the slow start, “but I just kept telling everyone that it was OK. We have to continue to play and that’s what we did.”

A 25-yard field goal from Tavares was the last effort that Windsor could muster on offense as Rancho Cotate continued to roll.

“We just caught on and couldn’t be stopped,” Mefferd said. “Feels so amazing to beat Windsor here. I haven’t lost on this field in my entire varsity career and it just feels so amazing.”

Mefferd connected with Chris Taylor-Yamanoha and an interception returned for the touchdown by Danny Shelton sealed the Cougars’ victory in front of Windsor’s homecoming crowd.

“We played better defense and we got some momentum,” Conroy said. “Every time they kicked the ball off, our boys were down there making plays.”

The defense was the greatest improvement after last week’s 34-28 loss at Maria Carrillo, Conroy said, as he gave full credit to the defensive line and their coverage of Roman.

“The quarterback was running for his life and we weren’t going to let him get anywhere,” he added.

Rancho Cotate improved to 4-1 in the North Bay League, 5-3 overall, while Windsor’s loss put them at 4-1 in league and 7-1 overall.

The Jaguars’ first loss of the season was going to come any day, Amick said, because of the “average offense” they’ve been playing with.

“But the sun will rise and we will play football next week,” he said. “This doesn’t mean our season is over.”