ST. HELENA – The St. Helena High football team knew of the weapon Winters possessed in quarterback Daniel Carrion.
The Saints prepared all week to stop, or at least limit, the 6-foot-3, dual-threat quarterback, who is in his third year as the starting signal-caller for the Warriors.
While St. Helena did all it could to slow him down, Carrion simply could not be stopped as Winters defeated St. Helena 49-21 on Friday night behind a monster game from its quarterback.
Carrion broke off big play after big play as the Saints’ defense struggled to keep up. He completed 5 of 9 passes for 137 yards and one touchdown, but did more damage with his legs. He broke off touchdown runs of 20, 36, 55 and 70 yards to finish with a game-high 212 yards on just 11 carries.
The Warriors (2-0) struck quickly and often while the Saints (2-1) had numerous long drives came up empty more often than not.
“There weren’t a lot of things that went well for us today,” said St. Helena head coach Brandon Farrell. “A lot of the short down and distance plays we were getting, they did a good job of taking that away and making us fight for even an extra foot or yard. We got ourselves in some longer down situations than we might have been in the first couple games and give credit to them; they did a good job of that.”
It wasn’t until the second quarter that the game took a turn for the worse for St. Helena. It was clear that Carrion was just getting warmed up, as evidenced by the 74-yard touchdown pass he had thrown with a minute left in the first to knot the score at 7-7.
On the Warriors’ first drive of the quarter, Carrion rattled off consecutive completions of 33, 13 and 12 yards to drive them deep into Saints territory. He finished the drive himself – just a minute and a half after it began – with a 20-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 lead.
He was far from finished.
Winters took over possession at St. Helena’s 40-yard line after a penalty-ridden Saints’ possession capped by a botched punt attempt. Carrion completed a 5-yard pass before running for 20 more, setting up a 15-yard touchdown run by Dalton Lowrie that made it 21-7.
At that point, Farrell felt the game slipping away. The Saints had netted just five yards of offense and watched the Warriors scored twice in consecutive possessions. St. Helena needed to answer, and nearly did so.
The Saints drove down to the Winters’ 30, but failed to convert in a fourth-and-third situation. Had they converted, they would’ve been deep in Winters’ territory with a little more than a minute on the clock.
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On the first play of Winters’ ensuing possession, Carrion broke away from the pack for a 70-yard touchdown run for a 28-7 lead.
The bad breaks kept coming for the Saints as they fumbled on the next play of their own 12. The Warriors recovered and scored two plays later to take a commanding 35-7 lead into the half.
“It wasn’t anybody’s fault,” said Farrell. “It wasn’t any kid out there that did anything wrong individually. Just collectively, we kind of got shell-shocked. I thought we came out with great energy to start the game, and then they punched us in the mouth and we just kind of fell back on our heels a little bit.”
To their credit, the Saints didn’t say die. Even seeing the deficit jump from 14 to 28 in less than a minute, they came out and forced a Winters fumble, eventually going on to score later that possession. It was on fourth and 11 that sophomore quarterback Daniel Martinez found Caleb Granados for the score, making it 35-21.
But like he did all night, Carrion made the big play. His 55-yard touchdown run with 7:23 left in the third officially slammed the door on any Saints comeback.
“He’s a very, very good player. Very tough to bring down, and your angles just have to be outstanding and your edge has to be sound,” Farrell said. “All those things we practiced, but it’s hard to practice against the speed and athleticism that he has.”
Martinez was 2 for 4 passing on the night for 18 yards with one touchdown. He also ran 19 times for 59 yards and another score. Junior running back Cody DiTomaso couldn’t recreate his success from the previous two games, finishing with 49 yards on 19 carries.
Once Farrell pulled his starters in the fourth, Granados and senior Lukas Pakter carried the Saints’ offense. Granados finished with 11 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Pakter ran eight times for 43 yards.
It took the Saints 60 plays to net their 221 yards of offense. Winters needed only 33 plays for its 431 yards of offense.
“There weren’t a lot of things that went well for us today,” said Farrell.
Despite the crooked numbers, Farrell still saw a silver lining. He preached to his players in the post-game huddle about learning from the experience and moving forward with those lessons.
“I have confidence in our kids and I believe that our kids, with how young we are, we should feel like we have a lot to build on even from a loss,” he said. “If you look at our whole preseason, we’ve got a lot of good things to build on.”
The Saints now enter a bye week as league play looms. The Saints will host Kelseyville at Patterson Memorial Field on Sept. 15 to open North Central League I play.