SAN FRANCISCO – After two close calls, the first football win of the Jesus Martinez era at Napa High School is in the books.
The Indians never trailed in defeating host Archbishop Riordan, 28-13, Saturday afternoon at George M. Rush Stadium on the City College of San Francisco campus.
Senior quarterback Caden Cortese put on a show, having a part in all four touchdowns for Napa (1-2).
“It feels amazing to finally get that win,” Cortese said. “The first two weeks we have just been missing the little things. Just being able to get that win is just so, so amazing. Hopefully we will gain momentum from this win and bring it with us into league play.”
High winds and an encroaching fog layer hampered the pass-heavy Crusaders’ offense all afternoon. The Indians defense held Riordan to negative rushing yards for the game and kept its explosive athletes in check.
A bad snap on the Crusaders’ first play of the game led to a fumble recovery by Napa defensive tackle Jacob Richmond. It took the Indians only three plays to etch the first touchdown of the game, as Cortese took a quarterback keeper 18 yards for the score. He finished with 111 yards on 11 carries.
“It feels great (to get this first win),” Martinez said. “I am happy beyond happy for the kids that worked hard. It has been a hard road to get to this win and I’m just real happy for the kids.”
The Riordan offense struggled heavily early in the contest, managing one yard of total offense in the first quarter. A 34-yard run by Dawson Trent set up the next Napa score, which saw Cortese take a designed run play up the middle 16 yards for the score. Trent ran over a defender for the two-point-conversion to make it 15-0.
“(Cortese) made some great plays and great reads today,” Martinez said. “He showed up and carried the team today.”
When Riordan (1-2) pummeled North Coast Section Division 4 power Salesian of Richmond the previous week, 42-7, a major player had been wide receiver Je’lani Clark with 193 yards on five catches. But the sophomore was held to only 48 yards on four catches by the Indians.
“It is good for the kids to be in these tight games, so once we get to league they won’t be strangers to it,” Martinez said. “Playing these tough teams does help us.”
The Crusaders got on the scoreboard to start the second quarter, however, as quarterback Travis Benham threw a screen pass to running back Chime Ugbaja that resulted in an 85-yard touchdown.
But Cortese continued to torch the Riordan defense, turning a broken play into a 48-yard scramble down the right sideline into the Crusaders’ red zone. Two plays later, Cortese punched in the ball from 1 yard out and Jose Acosta added the extra point to make it 22-7.
“I feel like I am able to do whatever I want behind that offensive line,” Cortese said. “I get the stats, but they are the ones that do all the work. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to run the ball 1 yard. When I am out there, I just feel so comfortable and I don’t feel like I am ever going to get hit. That is an amazing offensive line. I feel like we have one of the best offensive lines in high school football.”
The Crusaders’ offense heated up again in the third quarter, as Benham found Ugbaja on another screen pass and the junior running back took it 25 yards for the score. But the extra point was blocked by the extended hand of Solomon Tinnon, keeping the contest a two-score game.
With the wind blowing, Napa attempted only 12 passes for the game. That allowed the Crusaders’ defense to stack the box to stop the Indians’ run game. Napa was held to only 3 rushing yards in the third quarter.
With the momentum swinging toward Riordan, the Napa defense continued to pressure Benham. The Indians sacked the senior signal caller seven times for the game.
With five minutes remaining, deep in Crusaders territory but facing a fourth and goal, Cortese found Alex Perez De Leon in the back of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown pass.
Next Friday night, Napa welcomes Nevada Union (1-2) to Memorial Stadium – a year after edging the Miners 35-34 in double-overtime in Grass Valley.
“Last season we gave up over 200 yards on the ground to Nevada Union,” Cortese said. “That stat is in the back of the heads of all the juniors from last season, and we want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Riordan JV 34, Napa 0
The Indians fell to 0-3 on the season.
Napa Freshmen 45, Riordan 18
Brock Bowers scored five touchdowns and Cole Lex and Trey Dennis each had one for the Indians, who improved to 2-0.
Lex, an offensive lineman, scooped up a Napa fumble at the Riordan 18-yard line and took it in for his score. Manny Hernandez kicked three extra points.