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Posted by Staff Writer Eric Branch:
Odds and ends after Petaluma’s 12-7 win over Rancho Cotate in the first round of the NCS Division II playoffs:
* Due to the wild ending, I didn’t even mention Petaluma quarterback Mike Russell in my game story, but he ran for 113 yards on 21 carries and had several terrific runs. In the first half, he bobbled a snap, retrieved it in the backfield and weaved through several defenders for a 12-yard gain. On two other occasions, he attempted to hurdle over tacklers for extra yargade. A nationally ranked junior boxer, Russell doesn’t have game-breaking speed. But he’s tough, strong and has a nasty stiff-arm.
* Rancho Cotate quarterback Poueu Peleti-Gore was brilliant on the Cougars’ final drive. It’s not easy to drive a team 73 yards and 6 inches in 72 seconds with no timeouts. But Peleti-Gore appeared perfectly poised while calling his own plays.
* In retrospect, I didn’t do Rancho Cotate wide receiver Sean Fish’s 24-yard catch in the final seconds justice in my game story. Fish leapt high to grab Peleti-Gore’s pass and made a few nice moves to pick up at least another 10 yards after the catch to get down to the 1-yard line.
* I have no idea if Fish scored or not. My vantage point from 50 or so yards away in the press box meant I wasn’t surprised when a referee didn’t raise his hands in the air. But I also wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been ruled a touchdown. In other words, it sure looked close.
* For what it’s worth, I thought Petaluma played a litle tight as the No. 1 seed with a 10-0 record. After the game, a few Tojans said doubt began creeping in as Rancho Cotate held on to its 7-6 lead into the fourth quarter.
“Yeah, I started thinking ‘Oh, my God, we’re going to lose this game,’” said Petaluma linebacker Dalton Berncich. “Then I’d think ‘No, we’re not.’ Then it would be ‘Oh my God, we’re going to lose this game.’”
After getting a second life, I wouldn’t be suprised if the Trojans played a little looser — and better — next week. It might also help that they won’t play Rancho, another triple-option school whose defense resembles the Steel Curtain whenever they play Petaluma.
* Berncich on his emotions after the game’s final play, “I felt like my head exploded.”

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