The last thing Troy Mott wanted to be doing Monday was collecting gear — helmets, pads, knee and ankle braces — from his players.
As Napa High School’s head football coach, he wanted to be out on the practice field, leading the offense through drills in advance of another playoff game.
But that’s not the case, now that the season is over for Napa (10-2 overall). The Indians, the No. 2 seed, were held to a pair of field goals by Rudy Herrera and 144 yards of total offense in a 14-6 loss to Monterey Trail-Elk Grove in the quarterfinals of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs on a rainy night Friday at Memorial Stadium.
They were penalized 10 times for 95 yards, turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert on a fourth and 4 from their own 48-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, and allowed the game-winning touchdown on a fourth and 9 on a halfback option pass with 33.3 seconds to go.
“It’s heartbreaking, to be so close in a lot of ways that night,” Mott said yesterday. “It’s just really frustrating, sad that we had to turn in our gear today. It was certainly a somber feeling. I felt like there were circumstances of the evening that did not go our way. I don’t want to take anything away from what Monterey Trail did, because they played hard and they played well.
“This one is especially tough to deal with in that I felt like there were circumstances sometimes out of our control. To have to walk away from it in this manner is going to be hard to get over.”
Monterey Trail (9-3 overall), the No. 10 seed, moves on to play a semifinal-round game Friday at No. 6 Granite Bay (9-3). In the other semifinal Friday, it’s No. 1 Pleasant Grove-Elk Grove (11-1) against No. 12 Lodi (9-3) at Sheldon-Sacramento. The championship game is Dec. 3 or 4 at Sacramento State’s Hornet Field.
To Napa’s credit, the Indians didn’t give up any long runs and limited Monterey Trail’s rushing offense to 147 yards.
But the Mustangs were bold, assertive and most of all confident, converting on eight of nine fourth-down situations.
“That was the frustrating part of it, too,” said Mott.
“As well as we played defensively, we did give up several fourth-down conversions. But we knew that’s kind of what they did — they were happy with getting two or three yards every play and trying to grind it out. It wasn’t surprising to me to see it that way. They didn’t want to line up in punt formation, they didn’t want to make that long snap.”
Monterey Trail did suffer four turnovers, all on fumbles, and the interior line of Napa’s defense — Spencer Klew, Ryan Juchau and Max Kampton — played well against the split-back veer run game.
Napa has compiled a 19-17 record in 18 postseason appearances. This is the seventh time over the last eight years that Napa has advanced to the second round and the Indians won the 2007 Div. I title.
“The frustrating part about it — and this happens to us a lot — we have a good season, but if you don’t win the section championship, you end the season on a loss,” said Mott.
“No matter how good a season you had, the last thing that you’re left with is a loss if you don’t go all the way.”
Napa was making its ninth straight postseason appearance, a tribute to the overall organization, commitment, time and work that Mott, his assistants and staff put into the program throughout the year.
The Indians, who were second in the Monticello Empire League, began the playoffs with a win over Burbank-Sacramento (35-28) and had a five-game winning streak broken by Monterey Trail.
The Indians are No. 23 in this week’s Sac-Joaquin Section Rankings.
“Playing the big schools that have huge communities like Napa High School is just an honor and an opportunity to get your school on the map, get your school identified,” said Monterey Trail coach T.J. Ewing.
“Coming to this facility is fantastic. It’s one of the best high school facilities I’ve ever seen. We were really just excited to play here.”
What hurt Napa maybe most of all was not being able to punch the ball into the end zone.
The Indians had three chances from inside the 5-yard line in the second quarter, but couldn’t score. They were at the 1-yard line, but they recovered a fumble, moving the ball back to the 3 and setting up a 20-yard field goal.
Starting the second half, Napa moved from its 36 to the Monterey Trail 5, but couldn’t score a touchdown.
Thus, another field goal.
“We are a power running game and we should have punched it in twice down there,” said Mott.
“We wasted two golden opportunities right there in having to settle for field goals in that situation.”
Health-wise, Napa was in good shape last week. Two starters — Alex Russ (cornerback) and Cj Cunningham (wide receiver) — were out with injuries.
“I that think this group really, really wanted to keep playing, and had they kept playing had a very good opportunity to keep winning,” said Mott.
“Overall, we were pretty healthy for this point in the year as a team. For this point in the year, part of being able to make a run at this is your health. We were pretty darn healthy as it goes. The kids were certainly motivated and willing to keep working.
“I just felt like this could have been a special year, had certain things gone our way.”
It was a big year for Cody Jensen, who rushed for 1,739 yards — one of the top single-season totals in school history.
He also scored 23 touchdowns on the ground.
“He’s one of the good ones who has come through here and played that (tailback) position,” said Mott.
“He’s an explosive player. I give him a lot of credit for taking the time to work on his game during the springtime in track. That was the difference for him. He was able to run track and become a more explosive athlete doing that, competing during the springtime.”
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