In front of a loud Friday night homecoming crowd packed into Arnold Field, the Sonoma Valley High School varsity football boys took early control of their Sonoma County League second-place showdown with longtime rival Healdsburg and knocked on the end-zone door twice in the first quarter.
But the Dragons came away empty in the scoring column, before breaking through to paydirt twice in the opening five minutes of the second quarter, then, with their defense setting an early dominance at the line of scrimmage and keeping Healdsburg at bay, tallied another touchdown and registered a 21-14 triumph.
Anchoring a Sonoma defense determined to shut down the Greyhounds’ productive run game were junior linebacker Alex Gustafson; senior and junior defensive ends Brandon Santana and Trevor Welch, respectively; sophomore linebacker Sam Cordano; and senior defensive back Dan Deely, who also was an offensive standout and big special teams contributer.
Along with making a series of key tackles and passes defended, while returning a punt 51 yards with an array of dazzling moves, quarterback Deely hooked up senior wide receiver Ed Pomeroy for 25- and 30-yard touchdown pass plays, respectively, for Sonoma’s 14-0 second quarter advantage.
But Sonoma’s offense lost a fumble on the handoff exchange from Deely to junior running back Gabe Bernstein on its 18-yard line just before halftime, which yielded the visiting Greyhounds a touchdown and just a 14-7 deficit at the break.
On their first possession of the third quarter, the Dragons mounted a clutch 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive engineered by Deely, who completed first-down passes to junior Tristan Mertens (twice) and Pomeroy and junior Kyle Dunevent (once each), before senior Cordell Kenniston’s three-yard touchdown run made it 21-7.
While the game seemed sealed and in the bag, Healdsburg struck through the air for a 45-yard touchdown to cut its deficit to 21-14 with 29 seconds remaining and attemped an on-side kick that didn’t travel 10 yards, and Sonoma made it a homecoming victory.
“Our defensive goal going into the game was to shut down Healdsburg’s running game and force them to pass the ball, which we did to achieve our goal and enable us to win,” said Sonoma head coach Bob Midgley. “Offensively, we had some tough penalties that contributed to not finishing off drives and could’ve built up a four touchdown first-half lead – but we did score enough to win and that’s what matters. Basically, though, this game was won by our defense, with Alex (Gustafson) stepping up big again for us at linebacker as he continues to vastly improve with each game.”
Leading Sonoma’s offense were Deely’s 15 pass completions on 31 attempts for 236 yards and two touchdowns to go with 64 yards rushing; Pomeroy’s six pass receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns; Dunevent’s four catches for 74 yards; Mertens’ four receptions for 39 yards; Kenniston’s touchdown run; and junior place-kicker Noe Baron’s three booted extra-points.
This Friday night, Oct. 25, the Dragon gridders travel to Forestville to face SCL foe El Molino, before returning home to host Elsie Allen in their home finale and senior night Friday, Nov. 1, at 7:30 p.m., with the junior varsity game starting at 5.