It was the 2013 Homecoming Game, and the Anderson Valley Panthers were playing the Point Arena Pirates for the right to play the Mendocino Cardinals on November 9th for the NCL III Football Championship.
It was another big game, but as the players took the field, game announcer Ernie Pardini and I didn’t realize that Panther football stars Cesar Soto and Erin Perez were out of the game due to injuries. Soto had a bad foot, and Perez a bad leg. And, after the first quarter, Jesus ‘Tank’ Hernandez joined them on the sideline with a sprained ankle.
“If you got three starters out in an eight man team against a good team like Point Arena,” Coach Dan Kuny observed, “you’ve got a pretty hard situation. It’s like swimming upstream and hitting a log jam.”
So, not surprisingly, the Panthers lost the game 46 to 28.
Game announcer Ernie Pardini and I were demoralized and crying at the moon. Right away, the game seemed to be getting out of hand in the Pirate’s favor, but Tony Natereno made three good tackles in a row. Jared Johnson also stepped up and played an excellent game on both offense and defense. Quarterback Tony Pardini threw some good passes to Will Lemons who displayed good hands and a strong body.
For Anderson Valley, Pablo Segura, Jesse Owens, Josh Chavez, Daniel Eligio, Andrew Espinoza, Tiernan Kobler and the Delgado brothers, Jacob and Michael, all stepped up to play spirited and fine football.
Still, nobody could stop Cody Cissna of the Point Arena Pirates. Cissna, wearing what became an all-too recognizable #3 jersey, was the fastest man on the field and he showed it with both speed and shiftiness as he ran for daylight and the end zone for so many many times particularly on several early sweeps on the right side. He was a human highlight reel and the essential and dominant force in this game. And when he wasn’t running fast and far, he could pass with accuracy.
But, what Coach Kuny and Assistant Coach Aaron Ornbaun brought to this team was resilience. Point Arena racked up an early 20-0 lead, and the Panthers appeared to be flat and lacking confidence from missing several of their key players. Then suddenly they fought back with all they had to make a competitive game out of the contest. With four minutes and twenty seconds left in the first half, the Panthers were down 32-8 when Jared Johnson eluded several defenders to run back a kickoff for six points. Quarterback Tony Pardini passed accurately to his receiver for a two point conversion. The Panthers had 16 points and some momentum. Then Jared Johnson recovered a fumble and the team scored another touchdown to bring the Panthers 22 points. The Panthers were closing in on the Pirate’s lead and Natereno and Johnson were really taking it to the Panthers.
But, in the end, Cody Cissna wouldn’t get tired. And the Pirates won the battle of the trenches. They were older, larger and stronger and a better team than the depleted Panthers.
The Panthers still have Laytonville to play this coming weekend.
Coach Kuny’s team has a talented freshman quarterback leading a terrific group of sophomore footballers. It looks like three good juniors will be coming back next fall too. So not only do they play entertaining football, but prospects for next year look very good. Plus, Erica and Belma’s cheerleading girls offer a very pretty synchronized dancing performance at half time of all the football games.