CALISTOGA – There is a lot that Flavio Fernandez, Calistoga High School’s third-year starting quarterback, is going to miss about not playing at the Napa County Fairgrounds.
Competing under the bright lights on a Friday night. The walk from the school gymnasium to the Fairgrounds’ Huston Field on game day. The cool, crisp conditions in the fall.
“It was a tradition,” said Fernandez. “Walking to the Fairgrounds was a huge tradition. We had been doing that for a long time. I’m pretty sure we are going to miss the Fairgrounds.
“But now we’re going to have to take on this field and tear it up.”
Calistoga is perfect so far on its campus field, now 3-0 on the season after beating Roseland Collegiate Prep-Santa Rosa on Friday in an eight-man North Central League III game, 66-24.
The Wildcats opened the 2017 season at home by defeating Round Valley-Covelo, 52-12, and last week went on a long road trip and knocked off Loyalton (Sierra County), 64-20.
Earlier this week, the Calistoga Joint Unified School District used a press release to announce that Calistoga High football home games will be moved to the campus field, which is behind the main gym.
Huston Field is located on the infield of the half-mile Calistoga Speedway, one of the biggest race tracks in the state that is used for sprint car races and other motorsports.
Friday’s game drew a large, supportive crowd that got behind the Wildcats from the very start of the 5:15 p.m. kickoff. The game ended just before 8 p.m., with a running clock that was in effect for most of the second half, after Calistoga had taken a 44-18 lead at halftime.
“We won the first game,” coach Mike Ervin said. “This is going to be the home field from now on.”
Ervin likes the set-up of the grass field and took time to thank the field staff for taking good care of it.
“The best part is the guys that take care of it for us,” said Ervin. “They’re out here every week. They line it so we can have a nice field to practice on. They do a tremendous job.
“And that’s very important, because people don’t realize that it’s not just the football team. It’s everybody that works with us to make this thing special.”
Calistoga may have portable lights in place for its next home game, scheduled for Sept. 22 against Rincon Valley Christian-Santa Rosa. But the school is still exploring options of getting lights, according to Wildcats Athletic Director Karen Yoder.
“We are supposed to get portable (lights),” Ervin said. “They just did this so late in the week that they didn’t have them ready.”
Calistoga’s offense, led by Fernandez, was clearly ready. The Wildcats had 293 yards rushing. Fernandez attempted just two passes, and completed both throws for touchdowns.
Fernandez rushed for 117 yards and four touchdowns as Calistoga dominated Roseland Collegiate Prep (1-1 overall), a first-year program that was playing only its second game. Roseland Collegiate Prep opened in 2012.
“You’ve got to give (Roseland Collegiate Prep) credit,” said Ervin. “Their offense is kind of intriguing, because it’s so wide open and you have misdirection.”
Fernandez had scoring runs covering 31, 32, 21 and 30 yards.
“He’s a three-year starter, so he knows how to run our option,” said Ervin. “He did a tremendous job. We were reading it all the way.”
There were other standouts for the Wildcats.
Jasiel Flores ran for 76 yards and scored on runs of 25 and 23 yards, respectively. Flores also starred on special teams, returning a kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown as time ran out to end the first half.
Fernandez threw touchdown passes of 39 yards and 40 yards to Pablo Escalante.
“We’re playing well,” said Fernandez. “We’ve been in this position before, the past few years. But I believe we’ve got a lot of challenging teams ahead of us.”
Calistoga plays in the NCL III South and was ranked third in the NCS 8-man Section going into the game. Roseland Collegiate Prep plays in the NCL III North and was ranked fifth in the NCS 8-man Section.
The eight-man game is played on a shorter field, which is 80 yards in length.
Leading 8-0 after the first quarter, Calistoga took charge with a 36-point second-quarter scoring spree.
“Probably the most important thing is the offense really did a good job,” said Ervin. “Defensively, it was like we were kind of lost out there a little bit. We got out of our spots, our positions and we didn’t stay in our assigned areas. If we had done that, I think we would have done much better.”
Calistoga allowed four touchdowns. Roseland Collegiate Prep was led by Andy Martinez, who rushed for 123 yards and scored on runs of 33 yards and 20 yards.
Saul Arizmendi had 70 yards rushing and scored a touchdown.
Last year, Calistoga advanced to the Redwood Bowl, the season finale and the North Central League III championship game for eight-man football. A big crowd of school supporters made the trip to Sonoma County to see the Wildcats, who lost to host Rincon Valley, 56-12, and ended the season at 6-3 overall, 6-2 in the NCL III.
There was another big crowd on hand for Friday’s game on the west side of the field.
“This is the way Calistoga is,” said Ervin. “I’m really pleased. Calistoga is a special place and it showed tonight.”
There are just 15 players on the Calistoga roster.
“This is all we’ve got,” said Ervin. “All the kids played, they all contributed. When you only have 15 guys, that’s the way it is.”