SANTA ROSA — Team White Storm made a goal-line stand on the final play of the third annual Tri-County All-Star Football Game, surviving a late scare from Team Green Machine and picking up a 12-9 victory at Piner High School on Saturday afternoon.
This year’s showcase of seniors from Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties was held to raise awareness for foster adopted children and, for the first time, a foster adopted child played in the game — Team Green Machine’s Robert Krist of Petaluma High, who was given a $500 college scholarship before the contest.
“This event is always a fun way to end the season,” said Team White Storm head coach John Antonio of Piner High. “It is always great to bring together these great players and coaches for a week.”
Leading the way for the White Storm was Analy wide receiver Schuyler Van Weele. The senior had both touchdowns for the Storm and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player after finishing with seven catches for 100 yards.
All the schools north of Petaluma, including Calistoga, were a part of Team White Storm, while Petaluma, Marin County and American Canyon players were on Team Green Machine.
On the first drive of the game for the White Storm, Rancho Cotate’s Mo Ward had some tough runs but the Green Machine defense held strong. Team Green Machine, behind the strong arm of Drake’s Kevin Miles, marched down the field but the drive stalled at around the 25-yard line. But Miles comfortably launched a 37-yard field goal through the uprights for a 3-0 Green Machine lead.
That advantage was short-lived as 1:15 into the second quarter, Rancho Cotate’s Gunner Mefferd hit Van Weele for a 34-yard touchdown pass across the middle of the field. Team White Storm went for a two-point conversion run but was stopped short to leave it up 6-3.
Giving a strong effort before the touchdown pass was Calistoga’s Dustin Anderson. The senior running back, playing his first 11-man football of the year, had five carries for 20 yards.
“It took a while for the Calistoga kids to readjust to 11-man football,” Antonio remarked. “But they were always hard-working and I am glad they were on our team.”
The next two quarters showcased the defensive might of the three counties, as both teams’ offenses were shut down until the fourth quarter. A punt to start the fourth quarter pushed back Team Green Machine to its own 10-yard line, only to see Miles scamper 90 yards for a score on a designed quarterback keeper. Following the score, however, Miles was treated by the medical staff and couldn’t attempt the point-after try. A teammate’s attempt was blocked by Team White Storm.
On the ensuing kickoff, the American Canyon players got their time to shine as Nathan Gutierrez knocked the ball loose and David Johnson Jr. recovered it. Also showing strong on defense were the Wolves’ Oscar Saravia and Sergio Toral.
“Football is Football,” Gutierrez said with a smile. “It was a lot of fun to play with and against different programs that have different styles than us.”
After two fumbles on back-to-back drives, Team White Storm looked to get back into a more consistent offensive rhythm. Following a couple of strong runs by Piner running back Jose Ramirez II, Mefferd connected with his favorite target of the afternoon, tossing a 24-yard strike to Van Weele. Once again, however, the extra point was missed low.
With time running out and 1:04 left on the clock, Team Green Machine started to march down the field. Miles connected twice with Novato wide receiver Hunter Wegner, almost putting Team Green Machine in Miles’ kicking range. Miles threw to Drake teammate Gage Magatalatala for a 35-yard strike before being taken down on the 1-yard line.
Perhaps fittingly for an All-Star game, Team Green Machine decided to go for a chance at victory over the field goal try on the last play of the game. But a bad snap and fumble sealed the victory for Team White Storm.
“This was an amazing time,” Anderson said. “You hear of the Cardinal Newmans and the Ranchos of the world, so it was so great to play with these guys.”
Helping out the coaching staff for Team White Storm was Calistoga head coach Mike Ervin. Coach Antonio had nothing but good things to say about the coaches and players of Calistoga.
“Coach Ervin is a first-class guy,” Antonio said, “His kids are always well-coached and I hope I work with him in the future.”