"We did what we had to do," said Tomales coach Leon Feliciano after his Tomales Braves had held off California School For the Deaf's Eagles, 30-20, on homecoming night in Tomales.
What the Braves did is what they have done to so many teams over the years — they kept the ball out of the hands of a faster and more athletic team. The Braves aren't necessarily a team of tortoises, but their speed becomes a school zone compared to CSD's interstate flyers. The Eagles had their moments, but the majority of the clock blinks were consumed by long, laborious and effective Tomales drives.
The Tomales offense was predictable, but unstoppable, consisting of a strong push by a muscular offense line and runs by Anthony Feliciano, Feliciano, Feliciano, Feliciano and then David Guerrero, more Feliciano, then Ivan Gomez, more Feliciano, then William Nunes.
When everything was totaled up, Feliciano had carried 38 times for 180 yards, Guerrero 12 for 65, Gomez nine for 17, Nunez five for 16 and quarterback Joel Gutierrez four for 22. It added up to 68 rushes for 309 yards. That is a lot of carries and a lot of yards. It is also a lot of time off the clock that the speedy Eagles couldn't use to break one of their rabbits for a long gain. That happened with enough frequency to make for an exciting and competitive gain right to the end.
The win was huge for Braves, who, despite being a solid 4-2 on the season, had lost their first North Central League II/Bay Football League game to Emery, and could ill afford a second straight loss in the highly competitive league. Defending league co-champion CSD fell to 3-3 overall and 2-2 in league play.
That the Braves were able to come up with the big win was also a tribute to a swarming, stay-at-home defense that occasionally surrendered a big Eagle gain, but was strong enough when it counted to limit those painful moments and get the quick-snapping, no-huddle Eagle offense off the field with several crucial third-down stops. CSD also hurt itself with several untimely penalties. Chris Gutierrez and Dante Feliciano on the front line were especially important in containing the Eagles, but the real defensive key for the Braves was putting a lot of helmets around the Eagle ball carriers. One miss did not a big gain make, as several other Braves seemed to be on target most of the game.
An indication that it was going to be a long, chilly night for the Eagles came early.
In its first possession, Tomales bulldozed 67 yards for a touchdown. Aside from a 21-yard spurt by Feliciano, no gain in the march was longer than eight yards. Three times during the drive, the Braves converted on third-down situations and once on a fourth-down play just before Feliciano went in from two yards out and Gomez ran for a two-point conversion. The march took seven minutes off the clock.
CSD immediately showed its speed and tenacity with Adam Wemmer taking the ensuing kickoff back 95 yards to the house, However, a fluttering flag signified an illegal block and the touchdown was nullified. Compounding the problem for CSD was that the foul occurred deep on its side of the field. Instead of celebrating a touchdown, the Eagles began offensive life at their 9 nine-yard line. It was the beginning of a night of frustration for the Eagles.
A penalty and a bad snap foiled the next Tomales possession, but the Brave ground game was soon back in business, grinding 60 yards in eight plays, with Feliciano bouncing off would-be tacklers to score from the 17-yard line. He ran in the conversion himself for a 16-0 Brave lead, and the homecoming crowd began to sense a typical Tomales rout.