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Panthers claw Trojans


Paced by veteran starting quarterback Vince Jones, the visiting Santa Rosa Panthers dampened the Petaluma season opener with a dominating 33-0 win Friday night. Jones, in his third year at the helm, threw for a couple of first half touchdowns and ran for one more as his Panthers quickly let the air out of Ellison Field by controlling the line of scrimmage from the opening series.

The undersized Trojans didn't make anything easier for themselves by turning the ball over too many times to hand Santa Rosa good field possession. Three times Petaluma self destructed by giving up the ball in the pivotal first half.

The first turnover came on only the second running play from scrimmage, and Jones took advantage of the quickly assembled defense by passing to Alfredo Carretero for 10 yards and a touchdown. The tone was set for the rest of the evening.

After forcing a punt on the next Petaluma possession, the Panthers steadily moved the ball under the direction of Jones for 90 yards in 12 plays to score again to increase their first-quarter advantage to 14-0. This time, it was Jones who got good blocking up front and bulled his way into the end zone from five yards out.

The Trojans appeared ready to battle their way back into the contest when they rolled up three consecutive first downs and moved the ball into Santa Rosa territory late in the period. A pass completion from Patrick Bailey to Luke Wheless for 11 yards was the big gainer in the series. Productive running plays by Nikko Respeto and Gabe Medina also helped to move the chains.

A pass interception by Gabe Roque of the Panthers ended the best drive of the first half for Petaluma, and Santa Rosa quickly capitalized by scoring from midfield on three consecutive running plays by bulldozing back Jahi Hayes. Hayes was able to roll past diving defenders and ease into the end zone from six yards out, and Santa Rosa went ahead, 21-0.

Overall, Hayes had a very good night on the ground, finishing with 138 yards on 16 rushes. The smaller Petaluma defenders had a difficult time getting a good tackling angle on the powerfully built junior.

Petaluma quickly turned the ball over on its next possession when a fumble was recovered by Justin Hoberg. It was the second recovery by Hoberg on the night, and this one led to another Panther touchdown on one passing play.

Jones hooked up with streaking receiver Shane Simpson for a 24-yard scoring strike before time ran out in the first half.

A combination of improved defensive play by the Trojans and some sloppy execution by Santa Rosa made the second half more competitive. Big stops by junior defenders Respeto and Angelo Lippi helped the Petaluma defensive unit get a better handle on things.

Overall, however, it was the turnover bug which cost any continuity in the Trojan offense. Alternating quarterback Brendan White was picked off three times including in the final period when Petaluma had its deepest field position. White was under considerable pressure from the Panther defensive front, and he had very little time to spot open receivers. White finished the game with two completions good for 17 yards.

Santa Rosa put the finishing touches on a productive offensive performance with an 83-yard march in the third quarter on 11 plays. The Panthers were hindered during most of the drive by five penalties but a Jones-to-Devonte Manning completion for nine yards and a touchdown ended the scoring for the night.

Jones got the Panther season off winging with seven completions in only nine attempts for 110 yards, including three touchdowns. His precision may have opened some eyes when Santa Rosa begins North Bay League play later in September.

Respeto had 56 yards on the ground for the Trojans, including a big 7-yard gainer on a fourth-down gamble. Respeto also broke away for the longest Trojan run of the night with a gallop of 29 yards at the close of the first half. Lippi finished with 26 yards and Medina added 24.

Bailey broke to the outside behind good blocking on a run for 18 yards for the Trojans in the first period.

Petaluma will get an extra practice day to regroup and get ready for a Saturday afternoon meeting with Tamalpais in Mill Valley in its next contest.

Petaluma completely controlled the junior varsity game, 48-6, with an uninterrupted clock in the final quarter of play.