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Trojans NCS hopes dashed in fourth quarter

A determined upset bid by the Petaluma Trojans was completely negated in the final quarter by a 28-point explosion by host Acalanes as the Dons rolled to a 63-25 North Coast Section Division 3 playoff win in Lafayette on Friday.

The wheels came off almost every phase of the game late in the contest for the Trojans, who battled the fifth-seeded Acalanes club most of the way before things suddenly went south. A couple of fumbles and an interception late in the game made the score more lopsided in favor of the Dons, who had a battle on their hands for most of the contest.

Highly regarded Acalanes quarterback Robbie Rowell had a terrific outing, throwing for five touchdowns and running for a couple more as the Dons (9-1) advanced to the second round of NCS playoffs against Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland on Friday. Rowell accounted for 429 yards through the air as he was given strong protection by the Don forward wall most of the way.

Rowell went into the game with 2,081 yards passing in only nine games as one of the leaders in the NCS, and he did nothing but further impress observers in the first-round contest. In several instances, Rowell had extended time to select second and third receivers when his first option was covered.

After the hosts took an early 7-0 lead on a pass by Rowell, the Trojans battled back with an impressive drive, highlighted by a 49-yard touchdown run by swift junior Garrett Freitas. Freitas appeared to be pinned near the line of scrimmage, but got around the edge on his way to the end zone.

The Trojans never grabbed the lead, but left the field at the conclusion of the first half trailing only 28-17.

A 28-yard pass from Cole Powers to Isaiah Blomgren set up the second Petaluma touchdown. The Trojans marched inside the Don 10-yard line where Jacob Rollstin took it in from 6 yards out.

Daxton Hogya also knocked home a 27-yard field goal before intermission.

The teams exchanged touchdowns in the third quarter, and Petaluma still had hopes for a strong finish. A 1-yard run by Dominic Ayers was punctuated by a 2-point PAT run by the emerging Powers for the Trojans. The last score for Petaluma culminated an 80-yard march in 16 plays.

Prior to the final-quarter bobbles by the Trojans, the biggest play of the night defensively came when it appeared that Petaluma cornerback Riley Whisman had broken up a Rowell pass on a jump ball in the end zone. It was nothing less than a dual possession with both a Trojan and a Don clutching the ball when the receiver and defender came down to the turf.

The officials ruled in favor of the offensive player, much to the chagrin of Petaluma coach Rick Krist. An extended disagreement on the dislodged ball ensued, but the home-standing Dons got the call.

Krist felt that the call completely turned the game around. “It changed our approach because it gave them a 17-point lead, and we had to rush our approach in the time that was remaining. It was a poor interpretation,” the coach said.

Freitas wound up leading the Trojans with 91 yards on the ground. Rollstin tacked on 75. Petaluma (8-2) had 333 yards on the ground.

Season-long leaders Xavier Crysdale and Luke Haggard were both a force on defense. Crysdale had four solo tackles, while Haggard was in on seven stops, including a sack of Rowell. Unfortunately for the Trojans, they failed to capitalize on the sack and later fumble recovery by Alex Sanchez.

“We felt that there was a great deal of offensive holding,” noted Krist. “It gave the passer extra time. It was especially true involving Haggard.”

Rowell, headed to Cal as a preferred walk-on next season, was complimentary on the grit of the Trojans. “They ran that veer and it was tough for us to stop them,” he said.