Bolstered by a solid defense and several surprise offensive plays that worked, the Sonoma Valley Dragons energized the crowd at Arnold Field on Friday night, bringing the season’s first victory home with a 24-8 final score against the El Camino Colts from South San Francisco.
Although the Dragons have struggled getting points on the board so far this season – they were 0-3 going into the game, having scored only one touchdown – their first play from scrimmage tuned into a 64-yard pass play for a score by Ryan Sherwood. Unfortunately it was called back by a questionable holding penalty – several penalties, in fact – which pushed the Dragons back to a first-and-34 on their own 19 yard line.
The disappointment lasted exactly one play, when quarterback Jake Baker tossed a lateral to Tyler Winslow, who heaved a 40-yard pass downfield to Gavin Koler, who romped the rest of the way into the end zone. Though the extra point was no good, the 6-0 lead gave the home crowd reason to cheer.
The Colts responded a few minutes later with a pass on a busted play that turned into a touchdown, which they iced with a two-point conversion to take the lead 8-6. But it was the last time the South San Francisco team had reason to celebrate, as a persistently tough Dragons defensive line stymied their running game, shutting them down for the last three quarters.
Meanwhile the offense showed resilience and invention, scoring three more touchdowns – though none of them were capped by an extra point. “We played well, the blockers did better up front and the runs set up the passes,” said Varsity Coach Bob Midgely. “We ran so well they started ignoring our receivers.”
The Dragons made good use of their running game, with Winslow usually going up the middle and Ryan Sherwood or Beatty around end. Final yardage gave Winslow the edge with 92 yards on 14 carries, followed by Sherwood and Beatty with 41 each on 9 and 7 carries respectively.
The Dragons gained over 300 total yards in the game, 186 on the ground and 141 in the air.
Penalties and injuries plagued both teams throughout the game, including in the second quarter when starting quarterback Jake Baker left the game with apparent back strain. Senior Trent Garret came in for the first time this season, and despite a lingering limp from his ankle injury, led the Dragons to three more TDs – one a brother-to-brother pass from to Trent to Tyler Garrett.
Andrew Beatty also pulled in a touchdown pass in the second quarter, which ended with the Dragons up 18-6. In the second half he scored again, putting the final score on the board for the night.
Though the victory was a thrill for the hometown crowd, Midgely remained cautious about what the Dragons will encounter in the new Vine Valley league. “We have a few things to work on, but I think we can play better,” he said.
Friday’s opponent is the Napa Indians, who haven’t had much luck so far this season, and will put their 0-4 record against Sonoma Valley’s 1-3.
“Their 0-4 record is misleading,” said Midgely. “They’ve played some pretty good teams.”
The Sonoma Valley Dragons play their first conference game this Friday, Sept. 14, heading to Napa for a 4:30 JV kickoff, 7 p.m. varsity.