KELSEYVILLE — For the past several football seasons, Kelseyville has dominated interleague rival St. Helena.
The Saints last beat the Knights in 2015, when Kelseyville went 3-7. Since then, the Knights had gone 27-9 and beaten St. Helena three times, each by a wider margin than the last.
With that recent past in mind, the Saints made sure that streak ended at Kelseyville High on Friday night. In the first game of North Central League I play, they dispatched the Knights, 48-27, to move to 4-0 on the season.
“It’s a great opportunity to beat a team like this,” said St. Helena head coach Brandon Farrell after his team’s first road win over Kelseyville since 2014. “It sets you up for great things because they’re going to compete in league.”
The Saints once again controlled the game on the ground, piling up 503 rushing yards, a majority of which came from their deadly trio of Daniel Martinez, Ivan Robledo and Cody DiTomaso.
Martinez carried the ball 22 times for 187 yards, both game highs, with two touchdowns. Robledo accumulated 130 rushing yards on nine carries with three scores. DiTomaso was limited in the first half but exploded in the second, when he rushed for 142 of his 157 rushing yards and a touchdown.
The Saints actually trailed early, after Kelseyville (1-3, 0-1 NCL I) scored on its opening drive. But that lead lasted all of 16 seconds, thanks to a 66-yard touchdown run from Robledo on the first play of the Saints’ opening drive. That score gave St. Helena an 8-6 lead, which it added to about six minutes later on an 8-yard touchdown run from Robledo.
The teams traded touchdowns in the second quarter, leaving the score at 22-13 after Martinez’s 14-yard scamper with a little over eight minutes left in the half. Looking to answer, the Knights strung together a promising drive over the next four minutes. Fueled by several St. Helena penalties, they advanced inside the Saints’ 10-yard line.
With their backs against their own endzone, the Saints answered the call and forced an incompletion on fourth down that gave them possession back at their own 5 about three and a half minutes before the break. Four plays later, Martinez broke free on a 55-yard run that set up a 22-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Jake Mendes to tight end George Cutting. That little dose of trickery on the Saints’ first pass attempt of the game them ahead 28-13 at halftime.
“Stopping them and then turning around and going 95 yards was the difference in the ballgame, I think,” Farrell said.
The Saints added to their lead on a 22-yard touchdown run from Robledo, his third and final score of the game, on their first possession of the second half. Robledo followed that up by picking off Kelseyville quarterback Cory Holt, a play that led to a Martinez 14-yard touchdown run not two minutes later.
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Kelseyville did its best to claw its way back into the game. The Knights capitalized on a Martinez fumble with a touchdown just before the end of the third quarter that made it 40-20 and sparked a bit of life back into the Kelseyville faithful in attendance.
It didn’t take long for those cheers to turn into groans of frustration, however. The Saints once again marched to the endzone with a series of run plays that had Kelseyville’s defenders bickering with each other on the field. DiTomaso got his only score of the night, a 29-yard run that capped the nine-play drive, made it 48-20, and proved be the final nail in the coffin.
The Knights scored on their following possession but it was simply too little, too late.
Aside from a couple of letups, St. Helena’s defense held Kelseyville’s offense in relative check, including its dangerous rushing tandem of Robert Chavez and Dylan McAdon. The duo combined for less than 100 yards of total offense. As a whole, Kelseyville managed only 254 yards of offense.
Despite the strong showing and positive result, Farrell wants his team to be more consistent on the defensive end.
“We have to shore some things up on defense,” he said. “The kids will battle. I think they know what’s in front of them if they want to improve to the level that they want to improve on, but we want to get there and the kids want to get there and I think that’s the most important part.”
With one of its toughest foes now handled, St. Helena turns towards the rest of league play sensing the title is there for the taking. After knocking off the defending champs, is it safe to say this win sent a message to the rest of the NCL I?
“I hope so,” Cutting said. “Kelseyville is a good team, they’ve been a good team in the past. Middletown is our next big challenge, but I think beating Kelseyville was a good place to start league.”
The Saints will look to keep their record perfect when they travel to Clear Lake (1-3, 0-1 NCL I) next Friday. The Cardinals fell 20-6 to Willits in their league opener.
St. Helena JV 30, Kelseyville 7
The Saints improved to 4-0 as Harrison Ronayne rushed for three touchdowns and Spencer Printz recorded the other score of the night for St. Helena.