VACAVILLE – Napa High head coach Jesus Martinez could only shake his head after Friday’s night 10-7 overtime loss to Wood at Tom Zunino Stadium.
“Very frustrating, very frustrating,” he said after the Monticello Empire League opener, his voice thick with emotion. “We just made too many mistakes and beat ourselves.”
After the teams battled to a 7-7 tie in regulation, they each got four downs to punch it in from 10 yards out in overtime. Napa (2-4 overall) got the ball first, went backward with two runs for losses and an incompletion, and was forced to try a 30-yard field goal on fourth down. Jose Acosta’s kick appeared to be tipped at the line and fluttered away, landing short and left of the goalposts.
Then it was Wood’s turn. The Indians’ staunch run defense held the Wildcats to 5 yards on two carries, so Wood opted to go for the winning field goal on third down. Austin Clark’s 15-yard kick was strong and true, giving the Wildcats (3-3 overall) the all-important league victory.
It was also a kick in the gut for the Indians, in a game they appeared to control in the first half. During a grinding drive, Napa chewed up 11 of the first quarter’s 12 minutes, highlighted by a fake punt and first-down run by Michael Blatteis. With a first and goal from the Wood 6-yard line, a Napa offense that had been gashing the Wildcats’ defense suddenly couldn’t gain anything on three tries. But an encroachment call gave Napa another chance from the 3. Brandon Herter took the fourth-down handoff from Isaiah Newton with his eyes on the end zone, but was chopped down at the 2, and Wood took over.
On Wood’s second set of downs, Napa defensive end Solomon Tinnon recovered a fumble at the Wildcats’ 20 with 10 minutes to go in the second quarter. After a couple of runs, the Indians surprised the Wood defense with a screen pass from Newton to wide receiver Alex Perez de Leon for a 13-yard touchdown. Acosta’s PAT put the visitors up 7-0.
“There was a lot of traffic around on the pass,” Perez de Leon recalled, “but I just kept my eyes on the ball and was able to score. We don’t pass a lot, so sometimes we can surprise opponents in situations like that.”
Wood finally got the ball back and was able to move into Indians territory for the first time as the clock was running down. Napa seemed willing to give up some runs by Wildcats quarterback Asa Wondeh while protecting against the deep ball. As the half ended, Wondeh lobbed a long pass downfield that was picked off by cornerback Blatteis.
Highly touted Wood running back Daniel McFadden was held to 10 yards on five carries by the determined Napa defense in the first half.
“Our defense did a good job like they’ve done all year,” Martinez said.
But the game seemed to turn on a confusing and bizarre play in the third quarter.
Largely on long runs by Wondeh, the Wildcats moved deep into Indians territory. The Napa defense stiffened and set up a fourth and 4 for the Wildcats. On the ensuing run, McFadden appeared to be stopped at least a yard short. Napa’s defense celebrated and the linesman signaled for the chain gang to move for Napa’s next offensive set.
Suddenly, however, there was a conference of the officials while fans, coaches and players wondered what was going on. The referee suddenly signaled first down for Wood at the Napa 26, without even a measurement.
“A couple of calls went against us tonight,” Martinez acknowledged, “but we can’t change that.”
Napa, still reeling from the disturbing set of events, gave up a 20-yard touchdown to Wood running back Derriyon Jack three plays later. Clark’s extra point was good and, suddenly and surprisingly, the game was tied at 7-7.
The fourth quarter saw promising drives by both teams yield no further scoring, with a potential, last-minute, game-winning drive by Wood thwarted by Blatteis when he sacked Wondeh with 11 seconds left.
Wondeh was the offensive standout of the game with 174 yards on 18 carries, 126 of those yards in the second half.
Dawson Trent had 72 yards on 12 carries to lead the Indians, whose four-year, 17-game league win streak was snapped.
“Losses like this hurt,” observed Perez de Leon, “but we’re a resilient team.”
Napa takes the field in a league game against Rodriguez next Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.
Napa JV 44, Wood 13
With his freshman team now combined with the junior varsity squad, Brock Bowers led the Indians with three touchdown runs. Other Napa touchdown runs were recorded by Travis Brayton and Bailey Lorenson. Indians cornerback Tyler Clark added a score on a 30-yard interception return.