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Panthers’ comeback falls short at Pinole

By Jared Green Daily Planet Staff
Sunday October 07, 2001

MacFarland runs for 235 yards in Spartans’ victory 


Despite an inspired effort and some big plays, the depleted St. Mary’s High football team couldn’t quite finish a fourth-quarter comeback on Friday night, falling to Pinole Valley 35-27. 

The Panthers (1-4) overcame a 14-0 deficit to tie the score at 14-14 at halftime, but Pinole Valley (4-1) rode the back of running back D’Andre MacFarland a 35-14 second half lead. The senior ran for 164 of his 235 total yards in the second half to go with three touchdowns. 

St. Mary’s got big days from tailback/defensive back Trestin George, who ran for 140 yards and made several big defensive plays, and quarterback Steve Murphy, who threw for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Murphy’s second touchdown pass, a nine-yard strike to Chase Moore, brought the Panthers within eight points with just 2:20 left in the game, but the Spartans recovered Jack Beran’s onside kick and MacFarland picked up a first down to run out the clock. 

“I’m real proud of all my guys,” St. Mary’s head coach Jay Lawson said. “We played well all the way through the end. No one gave up, and we kept coming back.” 

Pinole Valley is the favorite to win the Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League, and many expected them to run all over the Panthers after scoring 78 points in their last two games. Throw in the fact that St. Mary’s had four starters out due to injuries, and it looked like the setup for a rout. But even when MacFarland’s final touchdown, a three-yard run, gave the Spartans a 35-14 lead with 10 minutes left in the game, the Panthers kept on hitting. George carried the load on the ensuing drive, taking a screen pass 25 yards to the Pinole Valley 32-yard line. A Spartan personal foul put the ball at the 17, and George broke through the left side of the line and took it to the house on the next play. The drive took less than a minute off the clock, and the Panthers had found inspiration. 

“Coming into this game, everyone outside of St. Mary’s was waiting for us to get our butts kicked,” Lawson said. “But we always believed we could play with them.” 

Although the next St. Mary’s drive stalled at the Pinole Valley 40, the Panthers got the ball right back when MacFarland coughed it up on the next play. St. Mary’s caught a break when Pinole’s Anthony Jones dropped an easy interception, and they made the Spartans pay. Murphy hit Ryan Coogler on an inside screen for 17 yards, and the officials tacked on 12 more yards for a roughing the passer penalty. That set up the final touchdown pass to Moore, but the Panthers couldn’t stop MacFarland and get the ball back. 

“They rallied and hung tough,” Pinole Valley head coach Jim Erickson said of the Panthers. “We made some stupid plays to help them out, and they made some nice plays.” 

The Panthers should get most of their injured players back next week, with the exception of linebacker Omarr Flood, who is out for 5-6 weeks with a separated shoulder. With a full complement of players and the experience earned during a tough non-league schedule, the St. Mary’s players are confident they can run the table in the Bay Shore Athletic League. 

“I think we’re extremely ready,” George said. “We’ve been growing up a lot. You have to crawl before you can walk, and we’re ready to start walking.” 

Murphy set a season-high for passing yards, and spread the ball around nicely, hitting five different receivers. The Panthers were led by Coogler’s 75 yards, including a 54-yard gain on a wide receiver screen in the first half that led to a 3-yard touchdown run by Murphy for the Panthers’ first score. 

Tight end Moore had two touchdown catches, including a spectacular 17-yarder in the first half that tied the score at 14-14. Murphy rolled right, then threw a screen back to the left to Moore, but tossed the ball high. Moore made a leaping, one-handed grab, then shook off two defenders on his way to the end zone, scoring with just 18.7 seconds on the clock. 

Murphy, who is playing quarterback for the first time this season, thinks the improvement in the passing game the Panthers have shown the last two weeks will carry into the league season. 

“I’m finally getting used to playing a new spot after five games,” he said. “We’re going 5-0 from here out. We’re not losing no more games.” 

The Spartans’ second touchdown came under questionable circumstances. They drove the ball down to the St. Mary’s 6, and on the next play quarterback Adrian Smith rolled out to his left. It looked as if Smith would take the ball in himself, but he changed his mind and tossed a pass to Erwin Hoskin in the end zone despite being well past the line of scrimmage. But none of the officials seemed to notice, nor did the St. Mary’s coaching staff, and the play stood, giving the Spartans a 14-0 lead.