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.