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Last-play heartbreak for Trojans

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Like two heavyweight champions, the Petaluma and Analy high school football teams stood toe-to-toe and slugged it out with the title on the line Friday night.

Just as it looked like the bout might take an extra round to decide, Analy amazingly delivered an emotional knockout punch.

There were seven seconds rapidly blinking away in the fourth quarter when Analy quarterback Jack Newman spiraled a bullet 46 yards downfield.

When the ball dropped to earth, Tiger receiver Ross Simmons clutched it away from Petaluma defender Eammon McMahon as both apparently tumbled into the end zone.

The scoreboard showed 0:00 and a 42-36 Analy win as the Tigers mobbed their hero.

“It was a great throw, a great catch and great defense,” said Petaluma coach Rick Krist. “He (McMahon) had him well covered. He (Simmons) just made a great play.”

The win gave Analy the Sonoma County League championship and kept the Tigers undefeated for the regular season (10-0) and in league play (6-0). Petaluma finished the regular campaign with a 7-3 overall record and a 5-1 SCL mark.

From the beginning, the game was a masterful contrast between Petaluma’s methodical ground game and Analy’s hyper-active aerial assault.

For most of the evening, Analy could not stop Petaluma’s body-smashing ground attack led by quarterback Brendon White. The senior had a career game, scoring three touchdowns and rushing for 160 yards on 23 carries. He also completed four of nine passes for 25 yards and a touchdown. This is all in addition to playing exceptional defense, intercepting a pass and saving a touchdown by tackling an Analy player from behind following a turnover.

White’s cohort in battering the Analy offensive line, fullback Lucas Dentoni, carried 31 times for 192 yards and a touchdown.

Petaluma’s ground dominance was all made possible by another outstanding effort by its offensive front of Travis Plank, Joe Beccera, Ben Upton, William O’Neill, Zane Overton and tight end Robert Krist. As a tean the Trojans rushed for 460 yards.

While Petaluma’s offense was running roughshod over Analy’s shocked defenders, the Tigers were, in turn, proving as unstoppable as advertised behind the deadly passing of Newman, who threw for four touchdowns, and the rapid darts of running back Chris Zamora, who rushed for a touchdown and was Trojan trouble on a number of short screen-like passes.

It balanced out into a wildly entertaining championship clash.

But the numbers fade in comparison to the kickoff-to-finish intensity of the game. With rooting sections on both sides of Rancho Cotate’s luxurious field screaming as if Halloween ghouls were stalking the stadium, the two protagonists punched and counter-punched with each occasionally staggering, but neither falling.

By the numbers, here’s what happened:

Petaluma won the coin flip and surprisingly deferred to the second half, effectively choosing to kick off to a high-powered Analy offense that averages better than 40 points a game.

Krist’s strategy became immediately apparent when his team opened the game with an onside kick. It wasn’t successful, but it set Petaluma’s gambler mentality for the game.

Although the rolling kick gave Analy good game-starting position near midfield, the Petaluma defense harried Newman into three straight pass incompletions.

Following the Analy punt, the Trojans began gut-punching the Tigers, bullying 76 tough yards with White doing the bulk of the carrying. With Analy bunched to stop White and Dentoni, the Trojans countered with halfback Luke Wheless, who found a gap and zipped 36 yards for the touchdown that started the scoring marathon.

Analy blocked the PAT kick attempt, costing Petaluma a point that was lost in the scoring that was to follow, but, in retrospect, would loom large.

PETALUMA 6, ANALY 0

After its stuttering start passing, Analy unleashed Zamora on the ground, mostly running 66 yards. The touchdown came on a connection between the deadly combination of Newman and Schuyler Van weele from nine yards out. Jordan Parks converted the PAT.

ANALY 7, PETALUMA 6

Petaluma continued to gamble in the first quarter, risking field position on a fourth-and-2 play from its own side of the midfield stripe. The gamble failed when Analy’s Isaac Kangas, a game-long defensive standout, broke through to grab White two yards behind the scrimmage line.

Three Newman passes and Analy was back in the end zone with the Newman to Van weele combination working from five yards out. Again, Parks converted the PAT.

ANALY 14, PETALUMA 6

White broke a 45-yard run and then squeezed into the end zone from the 1-yard line and followed with a two-point conversion behind a strong push from his offensive line.

PETALUMA 14, ANALY 14

Analy, running play after play, with hardly a breath between snaps, came right back with Zamora getting the TD from the three. Mr. Automatic, Parks, converted.

ANALY 21, PETALUMA 14

Petaluma was much more deliberate in its retaliation. With the offensive line pushing Analy steadily backward, Dentoni and White muscled 77 yards, taking four minutes to score again, with Dentoni doing the honors from the two. White again ran in a 2-point conversion.

PETALUMA 22, ANALY 21

As the half was drawing to a close, the teams traded turnovers, with White pilfering a pass for Petaluma and Parks plopping on a fumble for Analy.

When the intensity resumed following the halftime break, the Tigers, helped by a pair of Petaluma miscues, seemed to take charge.

A fumble on the Trojans’ third play of the half set up a 37-yard Zamora run and Newman throw to Van weele for a 2-point conversion.

ANALY 29, PETALUMA 22

Petaluma’s woes continued when Kangas intercepted a White pass. That set up a 22-yard Newman-to-Simmons touchdown pass. Parks did his PAT thing.

ANALY 36, PETALUMA 22

Down by two touchdowns with about a quarter and a half to play, it looked like a gutsy Petaluma challenge was over.

Someone forgot to tell the Trojans.

Refusing to change its ground-game tactics, Petaluma battled back, driving 66 yards to score on White’s 2-yard run. The quarterback was stopped on a try for a 2-point conversion.

ANALY 36, PETALUMA 28

Putting the memory of the failure of the opening onside kick aside, the Trojans tried it again. This time, Jacob Solorzano battled to claim possession for Petaluma.

Wheless broke another big run, this one of 29 yards, to help the Trojans go 50 yards for the tying touchdown. White ran in for the score from the one. Dentoni followed by muscling in for the all-important two-point conversion.

PETALUMA 36, ANALY 36

The Trojan touchdown came with still nine minutes of total tension left in the regular season.

With the game and the championship seeming to ride on every snap, the defenses for both sides, missing in action at times, stepped up big time.

With just over a minute left, Petaluma gambled again on a fourth-down play at the Analy 45.

The Tigers made the stop and took over at their own 44 with 59 seconds left.

Petaluma’s defense stood strong in the face of Newman’s passing attack and there was still 46 yards to travel with seven seconds left when Newman let fly.

ANALY 42, PETALUMA 36

To say the Trojans were disappointed would be the understatement of the millennium, but Krist reminded them that there is still season left as they go into the North Coast Section playoffs.

“This will hurt for awhile, and then, hopefully, we can start getting ready for our next game,” he said.

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