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St. Vincent makes a statement

Published: Monday, October 28, 2013 at 10:46 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 28, 2013 at 10:46 a.m.

St. Vincent made a big statement Friday night at Tomales by coming from behind with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to defeat the stubborn Braves, 18-14. The win at foggy Andy Azevedo Field was the second in succession over a quality North Central II/Bay Football League opponent and it could go a long way in stamping the Mustangs as a NCS playoff contender. St. Vincent tripped up high-scoring Emery 27-8 the previous week.

The Mustangs trailed most of the way, but eventually took advantage of a 45-yard march mid-way through the fourth quarter to go ahead on a final short touchdown burst by senior workhorse Derek Murphy. Murphy bulled into the end zone on a two-yard run to take some of the energy out of a large Brave following.

There was still work to be done, however, with well over six minutes remaining on the clock.

Tomales quickly reenergized its supporters with a 31-yard kickoff return to move the ball close to mid-field. The Braves again had no trouble moving the ball on the ground, as they methodically crunched out positive yardage with Anthony Feliciano getting the key carries.

Wingback Willy Lepori quickly got around the corner on the left side of the line and scampered 27 yards to move the ball into the red zone and things got even more crucial on each succeeding play.

The Braves earned a big first and goal on the 9-yard line, and moved the ball inside the five, but a critical personal foul penalty pushed them out of a short-yardage comfort zone. Tomales needed to eat up bigger chunks on only a couple of plays, and St. Vincent pinned its ears back and swarmed into the backfield to prevent any such advance.

Sixteen penalties were called in the contest between long-time rivals and five were in the unsportsmanlike category. The last one interrupted the all-important Brave march and crippled their chances for a comeback.

Tomales did get another offensive series after using valuable time outs, but a desperation pass by quarterback Joel Gutierrez was hijacked by Chris Faulknor to help seal the deal. Junior George Sammon also contributed down the stretch with a big sack of Gutierrez.

Lepori scored both touchdowns for the Braves, who led, 8-6, at intermission and extended it to 14-6 heading into the final stanza. Lepori intercepted a Jack Richardson pass in the flat and scampered 17 yards to give Tomales the first score of the game. The Braves dominated early ball possession and allowed only three St. Vincent plays from scrimmage in the first quarter.

The Mustangs finally got untracked in the second stanza after a fumble recovery by Faulknor on the Tomales 32-yard line.

Murphy continued to run for positive yardage, but it was a crucial pass from Richardson to Faulknor for 19 yards that moved the ball to the shadow of the goal posts.

A one-yard rush by Murphy got St. Vincent closer at 8-6 before halftime. The Mustangs were unsuccessful on three PAT pass plays on the night.

Tomales took advantage of a short Mustang punt, and drove 34 yards for the second Lepori touchdown, and a more comfortable 14-6 lead, but it was short lived.

Murphy again used his blockers very well up front, and turned in several solid runs as the Mustangs appeared to realize the urgency to respond. On several occasions, Murphy paused with a jab step to get a better running angle, and it paid off.

Richardson then connected with reliable wide out Patrick Garcia on a 13-yard toss in front of the Mustang bench to move the chains deeper into Brave territory.

Four plays later, Murphy scampered into the end zone from the 5-yard line to cut the margin to 14-12. The blocking up front for Murphy was crisp and effective from the second period to the end of the contest. The scoring march of 80 yards took 12 plays, including a clutch 13-yard run by Richardson on a draw for a first down.

A disappointed coach Leon Feliciano indicated that his Tomales club was down to only 16 regulars, and that the Braves (5-3) tired at the end. Linebacker William Nunes, the leading tackler on the ball club, was in street clothes during the contest.

Anthony Feliciano ran with authority for Tomales, and finished with 94 total yards on the ground. Lepori added 67 rushing yards.

Murphy had 130 hard-earned yards in 35 attempts for the Mustangs to go along with his three touchdowns in a game that had a playoff flavor from the opening kickoff.

Sean Healy turned in a solid defensive effort at linebacker for St. Vincent. Zach Sitchler and Faulknor were also key defenders.

Dante Feliciano turned in several big stops for the Braves to help force St. Vincent to struggle in the early going.

St. Vincent is now 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the NCLII/Bay Football League standings. Tomales is now 5-3 overall and 2-2 in league heading into a visit to Calistoga on Friday night.

The victory was the 199th for Mustang coach Gary Galloway, as St. Vincent heads toward the end of the regular season with successive Saturday home games against Upper Lake and undefeated Calistoga.

St. Vincent also captured the junior varsity contest, 34-14.

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