MANTECA, CA – The Rancho Cotate-Rohnert Park Cougars went on the road to Sierra-Manteca and its natural turf field, but neither a steady downpour or the quagmire of a muddy bog it caused daunted Coach Gehrig Hotaling and his boys after a 10-0 victory that propels the CIF North Coast Section Division 3 champions into the state CIF Division 3-A Bowl Game as the Northern Regional 3-A champions.
“It was a torrential downpour,” Hotaling said from a noisy and jubilant bus making its way back to Sonoma County. “It could not have been worse conditions unless we were plying in a hurricane.”
The rain and ensuing mud didn’t seem to bother Alex Sandoval. Kicking in what Hotaling said was “in the middle of a mud pit” and “in the worst conditions imaginable,” the senior placekicker drilled a 38-yard field goal with 13 seconds left in the first half to give Rancho Cotate (11-3) a 3-0 lead and what would be the only points they would need.
“It was the kick of the year,” Hotaling remarked, but for Sandoval it was the kick of a lifetime and something that will be etched into his memory forever.
Just for good measure the Cougars got the game’s only touchdown on a 2-yard keeper by senior quarterback Jared Stocker with 3:16 remaining in the third quarter, and with the way the Rancho Cotate defense has been playing recently it looked like the deal was sealed, and it was.
According to Hotaling no stats were immediately available since under the wet and blustery conditions keeping stats was next to impossible.
“I’m going to have to take stats off the film,” Hotaling said. “The stat sheet lasted about a drive.”
Even without his totals 6-1, 225-pound running back Rasheed Rankin seemed built for the conditions and his 38-yard run in which he could not be brought down set up the Stocker TD run.
The defense also forced five turnover including one on a first and goal from their own five yard line. Sierra also moved the ball to the 13-yard line, but a series of blunders including an unsportsmanlike penalty and false start forced the Timberwolves to settle for a field goal attempt but the 31-yard kick fell short.
In realty the only statistic that really matters is pretty obvious, and that’s for the second straight week the Cougars pitched a shutout in a do or die game, and each time they did it under some very adverse conditions.
The only difference between last week when they won the NCS D3 title in a 7-0 victory over Las Lomas-Walnut Creek under wet and blustery conditions, is the field at Acalanes-Lafayette where the game was played is artificial turf as opposed to the real grass at Sierra.
With this victory in the slop and mud following last week’s blanking, Rancho Cotate would certainly be worthy of the moniker “the blanking mudders.”
When Hotaling said his team was prepared for a mud bowl in the Prep2Prep preview of the game, he wasn’t kidding.
How do you prepare for a game in the mud unless you practice in the mud, and that’s exactly what Hotaling and his boys did last week after the City of Rohnert Park offered the team a grassy area at E Park to practice that had already been turned into a quagmire.
About the only negative to come out of the game was Hotaling indicated the mud and adverse conditions did what could be several thousand dollars in damage to their jerseys.
There won’t be any mud this Saturday night at Rancho Cotate, and the forecast is for no rain when the Cougars host CIF Central Section Division 3 and Southern Regional 3-A champion Bakersfield Christian.
The visiting Eagles mix it up with the pass and the run but with Coach Daren Carr, the brother of Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr at the helm, one would think Bakersfield Christian might want to or have to air it out if the size of the vise-like defense of Rancho Cotate takes away the running game.