by Dale Watkins
After Windsor thumped Santa Rosa in the regular season 50-26, the two teams clashed once again, this time in the Division 2 playoffs: win or go home. But the #10 seed Panthers’ unbelievable 4th quarter scoring flurry came up literally inches short of the victory, as #2 Windsor outlasted the scare to prevail in overtime, 38-37.
Santa Rosa opened the game convincingly marching down the field on consecutive drives, but failed on 4th down both times for empty possessions. Windsor grabbed the lead with a Kobe Roman QB keeper at the goal-line, but the speedy Carlos Lemus would tie the game, taking the handoff and busting it to the outside, reaching for the pylon while being tackled to score with 7:58 left in the 2nd quarter.
But on the very first play from scrimmage on the ensuing Windsor drive, the always-dangerous Jackson Baughman would get the ball and race up the sideline, then cut back to the middle before he was off to the races; 60 yards to the house as it was now 14-7 Jaguars in a flash. Santa Rosa’s Emilio Campos would fumble on a running play, as Jorgen Sarganis scooped it up and sprinted 58 yards the other way before finally being tripped up by the quarterback, Isaiah Steele. The Jags had to settle for a 23-yard Olin Piotter field goal, pushing the lead to 17-7 at the half.
A poor punt gave Windsor tremendous field position at the 31-yard line. Jorgen Sarganis would then take a screen pass, fake out one man, and then reverse field, eluding numerous Panthers along the way for a crazy TD run. He just made the defense look silly trying to stop him. After Justin Fa’gaata forced and recovered a Panther fumble, David Escarcega blasted through a huge hole and went 18 yards untouched into the endzone on Windsor’s next drive, widening the margin to 31-7 with 8:09 left in the 4th quarter. It felt inevitable that the Panthers’ dream season was over.
But never underestimate the heart of a champion, as such was displayed by the Santa Rosa Panthers. Isaiah Steele would score on a keeper and convert the 2-point conversion to Banks. After a crucial stop on defense, Blake Thomas found the endzone on a 3-yard run, as Steele then rolled out to the right and threw back left to find Thomas again on the 2-point PAT, now 31-23 with less than three to play.
A Windsor three-and-out would give the Panthers possession back, with more than enough time for Steele to come in clutch. Steele reared back and fired downfield to Kalei Aukai who beat double coverage, as he scored on a 61-yard catch-and-run. Cassius Banks would take the handoff on the ensuing 2-point attempt and smash through the pile and through the goal-line to tie the ball-game.
Just an epic and improbable Panther comeback, roaring back from being down 31-7 in the 4th quarter as the Jaguar fans sat in disbelief, watching their insurmountable lead vanish. The Jaguars capitalized on the remaining 1:13 to set up Olin Piotter from 32 yards for the win. but he missed wide right on the field goal, which sent the game into overtime.
Kobe Roman would connect with Jackson Baughman as he scampered 5 yards in for the overtime’s first score. The Panthers got the ball, and Cassius Banks got the handoff and bullied his way in to make it 38-37. It was decision-time for head coach Denis Brunk, but after being successful on going for two all game, why not go for the win doing just that.
Everyone on their feet, watching in anticipation as the game came down to one play. Steele took the snap, faked the handoff one way, then gave it to Cassius Banks the other, trying to plunge his way in for the win. After several seconds of digging forward, Banks appeared to be stopped just inches short of the goal-line, and indeed he was. Windsor’s Bas Osborn led the incredible game-saving goal-line stand. But there was some controversy buzzing along the Santa Rosa sideline, as Denis Brunk asserted that an extra push got Banks across. Nevertheless, the Jags had lived to see another day, while the Panthers walked slowly off the field heartbroken.
Jackson Baughman and David Escarcega led the Jags’ stellar ground attack, as Baughman racked up 174 yards on 22 rushes, while Escarcega added 104. The electrifying Isaiah Steele would complete 28 of 46 passes for 439 yards and three touchdowns in his final game for Santa Rosa. This amazing season will be one Panther fans will surely remember for a long time.
Windsor advances to the Division 2 semi-finals, and will now host the winner of Concord and Granada next Saturday night.
Windsor holds off Santa Rosa for thrilling win
By MICHAEL BARIBAULT, PETALUMA
November 19, 2016
WINDSOR, CA - A local showdown in the NCS Division 2 quarterfinals between Santa Rosa and Windsor was nothing short of exciting and nail biting. Windsor thwarted a miracle Panther comeback to hold on and win 38-37 to move on to the NCS Division 2 semifinals.
After trailing 31-7 in the fourth quarter, Santa Rosa forced overtime with 24 straight points before the end of regulation, converting three straight two-point conversions following touchdowns. In overtime, however, Windsor's Jackson Baughman put the Jaguars in front with a five-yard touchdown run on the first possession. Santa Rosa responded with a touchdown of its own, when Cassius Banks scored from five yards out on third down, but the Panthers went for two and the win. Banks' attempt was stopped inches shy of the goal-line, enabling Windsor to escape with the 38-37 victory.
“Without a doubt, a team with momentum like that and they're on the road, I was fully aware of the two-point conversion try coming up," said Windsor coach Tom Kirkpatrick. "We knew it was coming."
David Escarcega's touchdown run had staked Windsor to a 24-point lead, after having led 17-7 at halftime. An Isaiah Steele touchdown run with just over eight minutes remaining cut the lead to 31-15 after a successful two-point conversion by Banks. It was still a 16-point game with under three minutes to go, but the Panthers sliced into that lead on a three-yard run by Blake Thomas with 2:15 remaining, and then got the ball back on an onside kick.
Incredibly, with just over a minute to go, Steele hit star receiver Kalei Aukai for a 76-yard touchdown, and Banks' two-point conversion tied the game at 31.
“These kids never gave up and you saw that in the fourth quarter comeback," said Santa Rosa coach Dennis Brunk. "They played their hearts out. I’m extremely proud of the boys.”
Windsor took an early lead in the game on a touchdown run from quarterback Kobe Roman, but Thomas tied the game on a seven-yard run, following a fumbled pitch between Roman and Baughman.
Following Thomas' touchdown, though, Baughman responded with a 60-yard jaunt to give Windsor back the lead, one it would extend to 10 points at halftime on a 26-yard Olin Piotter field goal.
Windsor plays on and will host the winner of the Concord-Granada game on Saturday, November 26.
Santa Rosa finishes 6-6, one of the best seasons in school history.