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Upvalley Sports in 2021

Upvalley Sports in 2021: Many happy returns for teams

Local Report

It was quite a return to play for Calistoga and St. Helena high school sports in 2021. Most teams showed little rust despite having been idle since the 2019-20 school year.

Some credit must go to the coaches, a few of whom enjoyed success in their first year at the helm or while starting a second stint there.

Here is a look at five of the big Upvalley sports stories of 2021:

1 — St. Helena Football

The Saints’ season will be talked about for a long time. Ian MacMillan returned to the varsity helm for the first time since 2004-06, having coached St. Helena JV teams for three seasons before the 2020-21 COVID shutdown wiped out all fall and winter sports. The Saints’ only regular-season loss was 14-13 to visiting St. Vincent de Paul of Petaluma. Like a Hollywood script, the Saints got their long-awaited rematch in the North Coast Section Division 7 championship game. They were hoping to win the school’s first NCS football title in 44 years, but fell 54-32 to the deep Mustangs to end a roller-coaster season.

It included the pandemic-related rescheduling of a highly anticipated game for the North Central League I title against Clear Lake that the Saints won 40-14, and a league game at Fort Bragg being canceled because of a Timberwolves outbreak.

2 — Calistoga Boys Soccer/Football

The Wildcats had storybook soccer and football seasons, with a few students playing on both fall teams highlighted by rematches. The soccer players avenged one of their two league losses with a 2-1 thriller over Sonoma Academy in a North Coast Section Division 2 semifinal in Santa Rosa. Helping Calistoga pull out the win was fourth-year varsity standout Christian Caldera, who didn’t let a broken arm sustained in football keep him for scoring with an air cast on his arm.

The soccer Wildcats fell in their section title game — 1-0 at Athenian of Danville in a highly emotional contest attended an enthusiastic Calistoga crowd. In only their first year with Hector Contreras as head coach, the Wildcats finished 10-5 overall.

The football team fell 32-30 to visiting Branson in its league finale, then got to face the Bulls again in the playoffs but lost 68-37 on the road. The finished 6-3.

3 — St. Helena Boys Soccer

For the Saints, their rematch victory was a matter of third time's the charm. After getting swept by Cloverdale in NCL I play, 2-1 at home and 2-0 on the road and finishing second in the standings, St. Helena faced the Eagles in the second round of the NCS Division 1 playoffs on the road and prevailed 2-0. Their amazing 18-3 season ended with a 1-0 loss at Fortuna in the semifinals.

4 — St. Helena Girls Soccer

The girls also finished second in the NCL I, to a Roseland University Prep team that beat them 4-1 and 2-0. But the Saints shut out Willits for the third time this season in the first round of the NCS Division 1 playoffs. St. Helena finished its 13-5-1 season with an 8-0 quarterfinal defeat at Arcata.

5 — St. Helena Softball

The Saints finished as the outright champion of the North Central League I with a 13-1 league record. They were 17-6 overall after having no playoffs due to the pandemic, but they finished No. 9 in the state’s Division V rankings, announced on June 25. It was an impressive first full season as head coach for Brandon Farrell, who had stepped down from the football helm after the 2019 campaign, his 12th season.

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Sports Reporter

Andy Wilcox is a sportswriter-photographer for the Napa Valley Register. He's had similar roles in Walnut Creek, Grass Valley, Auburn, Tracy and Patterson. He grew up in Ohio. His wife, Laura, is a pastry chef. He also enjoys playing guitar and piano.

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The Calistoga High boys basketball team dominated the middle quarters in a 54-29 North Central League IV rout of visiting Tomales on Tuesday night. Earlier that evening the Calistoga girls fell to Tomales, 35-17, getting a team-high seven points from Grace Galindo but also scoring no more than seven points in any quarter.

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