ST. HELENA — It wasn’t the way St. Helena wanted to open North Central League play.
Behind an unrelenting rushing attack, visiting Kelseyville handed the Saints their second consecutive loss, 50-29, Friday night at Patterson Memorial Field.
St. Helena (2-2 overall) was outscored 22-6 in a decisive third quarter as another close game quickly got away. A 20-15 game at the half turned into a 42-21 advantage for the Knights (3-1 overall) who attacked the Saints on the ground all night. Kelseyville rushed for 399 yards and six of their seven scores. Jordy Lopez led the Knights with 171 yards and four rushing touchdowns on just 13 carries.
“It just spilled out of control, again,” said St. Helena head coach Brandon Farrell. “I don’t know what it was. I felt really good about our first quarter. Again, we’re letting too many big plays happen and that’s just really, really hurting us. This time it was runs, and they had a few passes. It was just too many of them, and it’s really unfortunate.”
As Farrell said, big plays were once again the Achilles’ heel of the Saints. Knights quarterback Alex Garcia broke off throws of 40 and 42 yards in the first half, while eight of Kelseyville’s 30 carries went for 20 yards or more.
“Their backs run really hard, and the difference in the game is how hard their backs ran and we just didn’t really match that intensity play for play,” Farrell said. “We’ll work on it.”
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Saints. They leapt out to a 15-6 lead at the start of the second quarter thanks to a 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback Daniel Martinez and a 34-yard run by Luis Robledo, who led St. Helena with 59 rushing yards on eight carries.
The Saints’ offense found a groove early, but soon hit a wall.
Following Robledo’s touchdown, which put the Saints up 15-6, Kelseyville scored on the third play of its ensuing drive to cut it 15-14. St. Helena looked to answer, but found only frustration.
That frustration appeared on what looked like a surefire opportunity to score. A mishandled punt gave St. Helena possession at Kelseyville’s 10-yard line with 7:47 left in the second quarter, but three straight rushing plays netted zero yards and a field goal attempt missed by inches. A promising drive had resulted in nothing.
With the ball back in hand, the Knights made the most of their next possession. On the first play, Garcia hit Dylan McAdon for a 40-yard gain. Two plays later, on fourth and 3, Robert Chavez took it 34 yards for the score to give the Knights a 20-15 lead going into the half.
“That really was a turning point and kind of deflated us, too,” Farrell said. “Then they come back and have more big plays. We’ve just got to keep fighting and find a way to eliminate those and just settle in on offense.”
With the wind out of the Saints’ sails, Kelseyville put its foot on the gas. The Knights scored on their first drive of the second half, a 47-yard run by Chavez, his second score of the game. Then, Martinez threw a pick that Kelseyville returned to the Saints’ 9. Lopez punched it in one play later, making it 34-15 five minutes into the second half.
The big plays kept coming. After a St. Helena three-and-out, the Knights returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown, their third score in less than two minutes, to extend their lead to 42-15.
It was similar to St. Helena’s previous game, a 49-21 loss to Winters. While close to start out, the game got away from the Saints quickly. Farrell said he and his staff are still trying to find a remedy for these cases.
“That’s the thing that we’re trying to figure out – how it spirals,” he said. “That’s been the hardest thing to figure out for us as coaches and I think the players are a little unaccustomed to it, reacting to that. So it’s going to be a challenge for us to figure out how to prevent that from spilling out of control, because we’re playing a competitive football game and then all of a sudden it goes to hell in a handbasket.”
The Saints did add a score late in the third quarter, on another Knights’ muffed punt that Jackson Dena recovered and returned 28 yards for the score. But Lopez’s fourth score, a 32-yard run with seven minutes left in the game, sealed the win for the Knights.
Martinez went 2 for 6 for 46 yards and an interception and ran for 38 yards and a score on nine carries. Defenses continue to hone in on running back Cody DiTomaso after his torrid start to the season, as the sophomore ran for 39 yards on 14 carries.
In the postgame huddle, Farrell implored his players to learn from the game, but also to put it behind them.
“We’ve got to continue to build,” he said. “All you can do is look ahead. You can get over this hump. I believe it.”
The Saints will get that chance next week when they travel to Clear Lake, which beat Willits 32-13 in its league opener Friday night.
St. Helena JV 19, Kelseyville 8
The Saints continued their winning ways this season as Ivan Robledo rushed for all three of their scores, all in the third quarter. His touchdowns were on runs of 5, 31 and 51 yards and would be all the room St. Helena needed to move to 4-0 on the season.