Saturday's 27-14 win over Calistoga was one of the most memorable football victories in St. Vincent High School's long and successful sport history, according to a man whose teams have written much of that history, 30-year head coach Gary Galloway.
"You will remember this for the rest of your lives," he told his players after a seeming mission impossible had been accomplished. "That will go down as one of the greatest games ever played here."
Calistoga's Wildcats came snarling onto the Yarbrough Field artificial turf undefeated and in the midst of one of the best football seasons in their school's history.
The Mustangs greeted them with a solid, but unspectacular 6-2 mark, but as the late afternoon shadows began to creep over the field, it was the Mustangs who celebrated.
The win earned for St. Vincent a tie for the North Central II/Bay League championship for the second straight season. Both the Mustangs and Wildcats finished with 5-1 league records and both are headed to the North Coast Section Division V playoffs.
St. Vincent KO'ed the Wildcats with a one-two punch of a suffocating defense and Derek Murphy being Derek Murphy. The senior at times seemingly willed himself not to go down. His numbers were a solid 189 yards on a workhorse 37 carries, but they don't tell of the times he kept drives moving by quick cuts, snap decisions and determination.
"This win means everything," he said. "It is what we worked for all season. The blockers opened the holes and the rest was just instinct."
Defensively, the Mustangs allowed no trespassing between the tackles, holding Calistoga's heralded running back Dylan Alvarado to 133 yards on 26 carries with a long of just 16 yards. Frustrated in their attempts to pound forward, the Wildcats took to the air with only moderate success. Quarterback Orion Harrell threw 30 times, completing 19 for 208 yards, but only one touchdown with one intercepted.
St. Vincent quarterback Jack Richardson passed only eight times and completed five, one for a touchdown, and had no interceptions. He also ran six times for 46 critical yards.
Defensively, the Mustangs bent and occasionally snapped, but were staunch enough from start to finish to beat the Wildcats, something no other team has accomplished this season.
Linebacker Sean Healy was always around the football, leading the Mustangs with 12 tackles, including eight solo stops.
Defensive back Patrick Garcia stood strong in the face of Calistoga's aerial assault and had a crucial seven solo tackles to prevent short completions from turning into long gains.
Also notable in the St. Vincent defense were linebackers Murphy and Zach Sitchler and down linemen Jordan Pech and Paul Gregorian.
"From a defensive standout, we knew what they were good at (running the football). We were pretty assured we were not going to see a lot of trickery," noted defensive coordinator Justin Galloway.
"Offensively, our game plan was to run the ball and let the defense win it for us," said offensive coordinator Taylor Galloway. "Hats off to Jack Richardson. He really managed the game well for us."
Things did not start exactly as planned for the Mustangs. They lost a fumble near midfield in their first possession and gave up yardage in chunks as Calistoga drove 59 yards to score on a 5-yard run by Alvarado for a quick 7-0 lead.