Jefferson falls short —

29 11 2010

For those Jefferson fans who won’t make it out to a San Mateo Daily Journal news rack this morning, I’m posting the article written up from Saturday’s heart-breaker against Terra Nova. I’m sure it wasn’t the way the players wanted their season to end, but the fact is, you get to this level and you can’t make fundamental mistakes or you’ll be exposed. Anyway, here’s the story. You can download a digital issue of the newspaper by going here.

Tigers edge Indians
By Nathan Mollat
Daily Journal Staff

Many football coaches will tell you a team needs to be successful in all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams – to have a chance to win.

Saturday night in Daly City in the Central Coast Section Division III semifinal between No. 4 Terra Nova and host No. 1 Jefferson, neither offense generated much noise against the opposing defense.

Conversely, both defenses played excellent, as both squads combined to allow only 384 yards of total offense.

So what was the difference in Terra Nova’s 21-19 win? Special teams. The Tigers made a number of big plays in the kicking and punting games, and that gave them the edge.

“[Terra Nova is] a big-play team,” said Jefferson coach Ako Poti. “I just didn’t see it happening on special teams.”

With the win, Terra Nova advances to the CCS title game for the second straight year, where the Tigers will face No. 2 Monterey (11-1), which beat North Monterey County, 33-12. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Westmont High in Campbell.

The Tigers (8-4 overall) lost to Seaside last year and will have their work cut out Saturday because it appears they will be without quarterback Chris Forbes, who injured his knee late in the fourth quarter.

Special teams play works both ways. All the positive plays went Terra Nova’s way, while the bad stuff happened to Jefferson (9-3). Terra Nova’s Dereyke Murray blocked a punt on Jefferson’s first drive of the game, but the Indians took it right back on a Terra Nova turnover – one of three in the first half for the Tigers.

Then late in the first half, after Jefferson’s Kyani Harris hit Bernard Deberry for an 18-yard scoring strike on a receiver-option pass, the Indians missed the extra point, forcing them to play catch-up the rest of the game.

As the teams exchanged turnovers early on and the offenses had a hard time finding a rhythm, Jefferson grabbed the momentum late in the first half on the Harris to Deberry scoring pass with less than a minute to play in the first half. It appeared Harris, who took the handoff from Meafua, was just going to run an end around. Instead, he pulled up and fired a strike just over the defensive back’s head and into the waiting arms of Deberry.
The Indians led 6-0 at halftime and had the Terra Nova offense bottled up, holding the explosive Tigers to just 59 yards of offense in the first half.

“We like to score points abruptly and in bunches,” Gray said. “When you play teams at this level, you have to make first downs; take four, five yards at a time.

“We’re not used to that.”

All of that changed, however, on the second-half kickoff when Terra Nova’s Elias Vargas took the kick on his own 15, burst through the middle of the Jefferson coverage and twice avoided tackles far down the field as Vargas went 85 yards for the touchdown. Jake Dineen’s extra point gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead.

“We’ve been on the verge of doing that,” said Terra Nova coach Bill Gray, adding it’s been a couple of seasons since the Tigers have returned a kick for a score. “We needed something like that to kick start us. At halftime, the kids were not confident.”

Jefferson, which didn’t have much going offensively in the first half, finally found a rhythm. Taking the ensuing kickoff, the Indians drove 80 yards on nine plays, with quarterback Cheyenne Meafua scrambling 48 yards for a touchdown and a 13-7 Jefferson lead.

Meafua would only play one more series after he tweaked his neck in the second quarter and it finally knocked him out of the game in the second half.
Good thing the Indians have an experienced backup in Ezekiel Nunu, who split time with Meafua throughout the season. Nunu came in and guided Jefferson to a fourth-quarter touchdown and led the Indians deep into Terra Nova territory late in the game, before back-to-back sacks by the Tigers ended Jefferson’s season.

Nunu came in and rushed for 36 yards on seven carries and also completed 3 of 6 passes for 26 more.

“[Nunu] has so much talent,” Poti said. “I would love to see him go somewhere (for college) and practice (being a) quarterback two hours a day.”

While Nunu was trying to lead his team to a comeback win, his counterpart Forbes, did what he does best – read the defense and get the right people the ball. In the second half, he called his own number several times, leading to a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs. But the biggest beneficiary of the Tigers’ commitment to the run game was fullback Josh Cruz, who had a horrific first half. Cruz touched the ball three times in the first half and he gave the ball away all three times. In the second half, however, he rushed for 75 yards on eight carries.

“You gotta have faith in your kids,” Gray said of putting Cruz back in the game. “Cruz asked to be put back in. We challenged him to do something.”
While both offenses moved the ball well in the second half, it was still a special team play – or lack of one – that spelled the difference. With Terra Nova clinging to a 14-13 lead, the Tigers forced the Indians to punt deep in their in territory. The snap to the punter, however, nearly rolled back to him and while it appeared he had time to still get the punt off, the punter decided to run for it. He was tackled well short of the first down, giving the Tigers excellent field position at the Jefferson 12. Five plays later, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Forbes burrowed his way into the end zone from a yard out to put the Tigers up 21-13.

Nunu scored on a 12-yard boot leg midway through the fourth quarter, but he couldn’t connect with Harris on the 2-point conversion which would have tied the score at 21. Instead, it forced Jefferson to have to score one more time to win.

After Nunu’s score, Jefferson had one more chance to win the game, driving to the Terra Nova 27, before sacks from Elliot Mamea and Jeremy Leaver ended the Indians’ hopes.

After the game, Gray was as nearly proud of Jefferson’s season as he was for his own team. And with the Indians moving up to the Bay Division next season, Gray is looking forward to renewing this rivalry on an annual basis.

“The Jefferson program is back where it needs to be,” Gray said. “They are the right people at the right place at the right time.

“This was great for Jefferson and Terra Nova.”

CCS semifinals
Division III
No. 4 Terra Nova 21, No. 1 Jefferson 19
Terra Nova 0 0 14 7 – 21
Jefferson 0 6 7 6 – 19

Scoring summary
J – Deberry 18 pass from Harris (kick fail)
TN – Vargas 85 kickoff return (Dineen kick)
J – Meafua 48 run (Gonzalez kick)
TN – Forbes 1 run (Dineen kick)
TN – Forbes 1 run (Dineen kick)
J – E. Nunu 12 run (pass fail)

Individual statistics
RUSHING (carries-yards): TERRA NOVA – Cruz 10-73, Forbes 18-45, Laurenson 7-1. Totals 35-119. JEFFERSON – Montalbano 14-85, Meafua 6-61, E. Nunu 7-36, Allen 8-20, Nelson 3-7, Williams 3-4, Visesio 1-2, Luavasa 1-1, Deberry 2-(-1). Totals 25-130.
PASSING (comp-att-yards-td-int): TERRA NOVA – Forbes 5-16-26-0-1, Dineen 1-1-13-0-0. Totals 6-17-39-0-1. JEFFERSON – Meafua 3-8-52-0-0, E. Nunu 3-6-26-0-0, Harris 1-1-18-1-0. Totals 7-15-96-1-0.
RECEIVING (catches-yards): TERRA NOVA – Manessis 3-22, Smith 1-13, Virgin 1-4, Cruz 1-0. Totals 6-39. JEFFERSON – Harris 2-53, Deberry 3-35, Colindres 1-8, Montalbano 1-0. Totals 7-96.
TOTAL OFFENSE (rush-pass-total): TERRA NOVA – 119-39-158. JEFFERSON – 130-96-226.
Records – Terra Nova 8-4 overall; Jefferson 9-3.

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