Playing without the services of their injured (concussion) best all-around player in senior quarterback and defensive back Dan Deely, the Sonoma Valley High School varsity football boys needed to step up in his absence and make the plays needed to be successful in their final nonleague game Friday night in Richmond.
After taking a 6-0 first-quarter lead, the visiting Dragons yielded a pair of touchdowns to John F. Kennedy and trailed 14-6, before turning to their defense and running game to mount a rally that resulted in a pair of touchdowns en route to returning to the Valley with a well-earned 21-14 victory.
Keying Sonoma’s inspired comeback was junior defensive back Tristan Mertens, who came up with one of his three clutch pass interceptions and turned it into a pick-six play with his 35-yard touchdown return, which was followed with a two-point conversion run by senior Cordell Kenniston for a 14-14 tie. Kenniston later tallied what would be Sonoma’s winning touchdown on a one-yard run, with junior placekicker Noe Baron booting the extra point.
With the defense, led by junior linebacker Alex Gustafson, keeping Kennedy off the scoreboard for the remainder of the game, the Dragons’ offense controlled the tempo of the action with its ground game, sparked by junior running back Gabe Bernstein, who led the charge after senior running back Austin Bailey was injured.
Bernstein ended up with 112 yards rushing on 14 carries, while Bailey managed to total 48 yards on nine carries before he was injured.
Sonoma’s first touchdown came on a pass from senior wide receive-turned-quarterback Mitch Hood, who stepped in for Deely as the signal caller and connected with junior wide receiver Cyle Gusse for the nine-yard score.
The Dragons resume their SCL schedule at 2 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 12, when they face Piner in Santa Rosa, which will be followed by Sonoma’s homecoming game against longtime rival Healdsburg on Friday, Oct. 18.
Dragons of the Week
The Dragons of the Week in Sonoma’s 21-14 nonleague win over John F. Kennedy Friday night in Richmond were Tristan Mertens, Alex Gustafson, Gabe Bernstein and Matt Robinson.
Mertens, a 5-foot, 8-inch, 150-pound junior defensive back, had a rare interception trifecta, returning one of his three picks 35 yards for a game-changing touchdown.
Gustafson, a 6-0, 215-pound junior inside linebacker, turned in another stalwart performance for the defense with numerous tackles and pressure in Kennedy’s backfield.
Bernstein, a 5-11, 180-pound junior running back, sparked the ground game with 112 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Robinson, a 6-4, 295-pound senior lineman, delivered a dominant effort on both offense and defense.
The Dragons of the Week are sponsored by Eraldi’s Men’s Wear and Shoes, and Broadway Market.