Warriors roll past Cardinals for Sugar Bowl victory

BY CLAIRE CRUZ |

SANTA ROSA — Santa Rosa earned a sweet victory in the annual Sugar Bowl, defeating rival La Villa 34-14 at home on Friday.

It’s the perfect building block for the Warriors as they strive for success under first-year head coach Hector Ayala.

“When you’re winning, everybody likes coming out to practice,” Ayala said. “What we tell them is ‘if you come out to practice, we’re going to grill you and we’re going to work you, but Friday is going to be fun. All that hard work’s going to pay off.’ And so far, it’s paid off and we hope to keep going with that next week as well.”

Santa Rosa didn’t waste any time gaining the advantage in the battle.

On the second play of the game, Sam Torres intercepted Cardinals junior quarterback Rey Felix and took the ball down to the 1-yard line. Junior running back Ryan Mesa promptly ran it in for the touchdown. The Warriors scored again four minutes later on an 8-yard touchdown run by senior Vince Saldivar.

But Santa Rosa lost two fumbles on separate drives inside the 10-yard line to close the first half. Instead of getting down on his team, Ayala challenged it to come back stronger.

“We should’ve had maybe 28 points on them (La Villa) at the half, but we fumbled and I told them ‘we can’t lose focus,’” Ayala said. “We might’ve punched it in quick, but that doesn’t mean the game’s over. (I told them) let’s drive it down the field and make a statement, and we did that.”

Mesa and fellow running back senior Christian Castillo carried the Warriors in the second half. Castillo hammered through a La Villa defense, which saw several players injured, and scored twice. Mesa was a workhorse until he left the game with an injury halfway through the third quarter, but he later returned and scored on a 30-yard touchdown run to put the game on ice.

The Cardinals, though banged up and tired, fought until the final whistle and got on the board twice in the fourth behind the arm of Felix. Despite four turnovers and 12 penalties, La Villa head coach Daniel Perez was proud of the effort put forth by his team.

“We have a young team. We only have three seniors so they’re learning a new offense and defense, so mistakes are expected, but we did some good things,” Perez said. “We’re playing bigger schools and that’s good, so once we get to the schools that are the same as us, we’ll be all right.”