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First touchdown enough for a Trojan win

Published: Monday, September 9, 2013 at 6:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 9, 2013 at 6:11 p.m.

It took one full game and all but six seconds of a second for Petaluma High School’s varsity football Trojans to score their first touchdown of the new season, but when the points came, they were huge.

With a slight breeze blowing off Richardson Bay bringing temperatures down to a bearable level Saturday afternoon, senior quarterback Patrick Bailey squeezed into the end zone from one foot out with just six seconds remaining to give Petaluma a 7-0 win over Tamalpais’ disappointed Red Tail Hawks.

The win evened the Petaluma record at 1-1 and, perhaps more importantly, helped restore a bus load of confidence to a young team that needed a boost after being shut out by Santa Rosa in its season opener.

After an afternoon of frustration that saw Petaluma tarnish a golden scoring opportunity in the game’s first minutes and have an apparent touchdown nullified by a penalty, the Trojans finally mounted the game-winning march as time slipped away in the final period.

The winning drive started at the Trojan 47-yard line after two consecutive sacks of Tamalpais quarterback Patrick Shore forced the Red Tail Hawks to punt from deep within their own territory.

Big play in the drive to success was a 21-yard pass hook up between Bailey and senior receiver Brendan Marweg. The connection came on a third-and-10 play, and moved the ball from Petaluma territory to the Tamalpais 30-yard line.

As time blinked away, Nick Temple and Gabe Medina moved the ball ever closer to the Tam goal. Medina picked up a first down at the 4-yard line, moved the ball to the one, and then was smothered for no gain. Petaluma still had two downs to work with, but only 10 seconds when coach Rick Krist asked for time out.

After talking it over, Bailey literally squeezed in for the score. “It was a normal wedge play,” the senior said. “The line got off quick, we stopped and then got a push from Gabe (Medina) to get in.”

Greg Thomas booted the conversion for a 7-0 Petaluma lead, but there was still a detail to take care of. According to the clock, Petaluma’s ensuing kickoff took no time at all — as in 0 clock blinks. That left Tamalapis one miracle hope from its 30 yard line. Brendan White extinguished that hope with a pass interception.

Until Bailey crossed the goal line, the game was a hard-hitting even struggle marked by exceptional defense and offensive miscues by both sides.

Petaluma started the season with an explosion, with Medina zooming the opening kickoff back 65 yards to the Tamalpais 14-yard line. But then the Trojans fizzled. Three plays netted five yards. On fourth down, Thomas booted what might have been a 26-yard field goal, but the Red Tail Hawks were offsides on the play, and Petaluma elected to take the five yards and try for the one more yard needed to keep the drive going. They failed when Bailey and Medina couldn’t mesh on the handoff and both were stopped short of the scrimmage line.

Bailey and Medina got back on the same page later in the opening period when they worked a pitch play to perfection with Medina sprinting 33 yards for an apparent touchdown, but a Petaluma player had lined up offsides on the play, and it was flagged, along the points, out of existence.

That was pretty much it for the Petaluma offense until the closing-minute heroics.

Buoyed by a much-improved offensive line, Petaluma did rush the ball well at times, totaling 145 yards spread among eight carriers. Medina led the way with 42 yards, while Angelo Lippi added 25 and Nikko Respeto 22. But, the Trojans were hampered by ill-timed penalties and problems, including three fumbles.

The good news from the Petaluma perspective was that the Trojan defense caged the Red Tail Hawks in their home territory the entire game. Tam running back Aseal Birir, who had run for 258 yards and six touchdowns against Galileo the previous week, was held to 112 yards by the swarming Petaluma defense. When the Hawks tried to take the pressure off by going to the air, junior linebacker Hunter Williams and a few of his friends foiled the strategy by tossing the quarterback to the artificial turf at every opportunity. Petaluma had five sacks in the game, with Williams in on three.

Williams led a tenacious group of Petaluma linebackers that did much to limit Birir and ground the Hawks. Linebackers Joe Lynch, Lippi and Donovan Reece were active participants in the Petaluma defense, while Nick McCloskey and Jeremy Spaletta gave Tam precious little running room between the tackles and Marweg, White and Nick Temple pretty much grounded the Tam aerial efforts.

“Our defense was fantastic,” said Petaluma coach Rick Krist. For the defense to play so well at this stage in the season is a great feeling.

Krist said the foundation for the win was laid during practice the week before the game. “All week we focused on the basic fundamentals,” he explained. “In the game they responded well.”

The coach gave some of the credit for the strong defensive showing to Yusef Kawasmi, who isn’t even on the playing roster yet, as he awaits clearance to play after transferring from Casa Grande. Krist explained that Kawasmi had played the part of Birir in Petaluma practices, helping the Trojans prepare for the dangerous running back.

The varsity game was part of a triple header, with Tam winning the freshman game, 6-0. while Petaluma prevailed in a wildly entertaining and well-played junior varsity game, 32-27, with Harrison Royall filling in admirably at quarterback, while Tyler Williams was an unstoppable fullback in the crucial final quarter.

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