Petaluma High rebounds on the football field with a big win

Football coaches have long maintained that teams play on Friday night the way they practice all week. It proved true for Petaluma High last week.

“We had the best week of practice we’ve had this season,” Daniel Decarli, center and anchor of the Petaluma offensive line, said after the Trojans had soundly beaten a good Terra Linda team, 21-7.

The win, in the first football game played on the newly refurbished Steve Ellison Field, improved Petaluma to 2-1 on the season and was an impressive rebound from the week before when the Trojans lost to Santa Rosa.

The victory wasn’t easily accomplished, but it was dominant and thorough, despite the loss of starting fullback Derrick Pomi to an injury early in the game. Colton Prieto stepped in, and the Petaluma offense didn’t miss a beat.

“Prieto did a great job stepping in,” said Petaluma coach Rick Krist. “With him in there, we were still able to run our regular veer.”

With Prieto gaining tough yards up the middle, leading other backs with his blocking and contributing to the deception of the Petaluma offense, the Trojans totaled 206 rushing yards and were able to sustain enough critical drives to beat a solid like-named Trojan team from Marin County.

Fifty of those yards came on one rocket run by senior Garrett Freitas, who put the game out of reach with his touchdown scamper early in the fourth quarter.

“I made one cut and got into the secondary, then I saw I only had one guy to beat. I saw him when he began to close on me, so I turned it on,” Freitas said of the run that gave Petaluma a 21-7 lead.

While Freitas, Prieto and quarterback Cole Powers were racking up the yards, it was all made possible by the efforts of the offensive line.

“We’re all playing for each other,” said Decarli. “We’re like brothers. We have one another’s backs.”

He noted that playing on the offensive front is about more than muscling the player in front of you.

“There is a lot to know,” he said. “From wedging to pulling, we need to know how to do it and do it right.”

“The biggest improvement in the team since day one has been the offensive line,” said Krist. “We’re getting settled in.”

Although Freitas’ scamper gave Petaluma only a two touchdown advantage with most of the fourth quarter still to play, the Trojans from Sonoma County could feel pretty secure because of the way they were handling the potentially potent Terra Linda offense.

Led by Conor Pedersen, who was all over the field, but mostly around the football, Petaluma held its visitors to 207 total yards, split almost equally between passing (107) and running (100).

The highlight of the defensive night for either Trojan team came in the second quarter with Petaluma clinging to a 14-7 lead when Jack Hartman somehow managed to out-jump and out-grab a flying Terra Linda receiver for a tumbling Spider-Man-like interception at midfield.

But the Petaluma defensive effort was truly a team affair, with every participant combining to keep the visiting Trojans out of the end zone after a tit-for-tat first quarter that saw both teams drive for touchdowns in their first possessions. Petaluma’s march ended with Powers in the end zone on a 3-yard run. Jackson Zebierek concluded the Terra Linda drive with a 1-yard run.

Petaluma managed to keep the offensive momentum flowing into the second period, scoring when Freitas streaked free in the middle of the Terra Linda defense to snare a 18-yard pass from Powers that, combined with Daxton Hogya’s extra point, gave the homeside a 14-7 lead.

Hartman’s spectacular interception took the air out of Terra Linda’s offensive balloon and neither team could get an attack started for the remainder of the half. At one point, Petaluma recovered a fumble and, on the next play, Terra Linda came up with an interception.

Petaluma chewed up much of the third quarter with a 58-yard march that ended with a 6-yard pass completion on a fourth-and-11 play inside the Terra Linda 30.

Less than a minute into the final quarter, Freitas took off, and Petaluma had the cushion it needed.

The Petaluma defense did the rest, twice stopping Terra Linda on fourth-down plays, once on an end zone pass knocked down by Hogya and finally on a sack by Mariano Jaramillo.

Petaluma hopes to keep home success going Friday night when it hosts El Molino.

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