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REGIONAL BOWL GAME: Sutter falls to Marin Catholic
A few big plays doom Huskies
OROVILLE — The players exchanged hugs and joined each other in prayer after the game, after all, both teams gave all they had.
Sutter High's matchup with Marin Catholic on Saturday night had everything one could've asked for in a football game: two great programs with winning traditions, players that will move on to the collegiate level and fan support that turned Harrison Stadium into a venue that could be heard from miles around.
Of course, one team had to lose, and on this night, it was the Huskies.
Deadlocked 7-7 at halftime, Marin Catholic scored a pair of touchdowns just minutes a part in the third quarter and held the lead to the final whistle to earn a hard-fought 23-7 victory in the inaugural CIF Northern California Regional Division III Championship Game.
But while the loss will hurt, Sutter proved that the Huskies and the Northern Section can indeed compete with some of the best the state had to offer
"Doggone it, we were in it toe-to-toe, slugging it out the first half, and we were right where we were hoping to be," Sutter coach Ryan Reynolds said. "It came down to a couple of mistakes in the second half, and when you're playing a great football team, you can't have mistakes and expect to win." And with a break here or a break there, Sutter could've been moving on.
The Huskies (13-1) opened the scoring on an impressive drive late in the first quarter that saw them run and pass the ball right through the Marin Catholic defense.
Quarterback Trent Little ran for 15 yards and completed a pair of passes for 34 more on the drive to move Sutter near the goal line.
After the teams switched sides to start the second quarter, Little capped the march with a 1-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper, giving Sutter a 7-0 lead.
Marin Catholic (14-1) answered with an impressive 65-yard scoring drive of its own later in the second period, and knotted things up on a 5-yard burst up the middle by Akili Terry.
The Huskies were in the fight, but the game changed for good following a short sequence of plays early in the third quarter.
After receiving the second-half kickoff, the Wildcats needed all of seven plays to move the ball in for a score.
The touchdown play was a thing of beauty, as Cal-bound quarterback Jared Goff fired a swing pass to Billy Alten, who followed a wall of blockers all the way into the end zone for a 25-yard score.
Then came the backbreaker.
With the ball at the Huskies' 21-yard line, Little dropped back to pass and received pressure up the middle. While being dragged to the ground, he tried to throw the ball away only to see sophomore Jared Lazore make a shoe-string catch for the interception.
Goff fired a 15-yard scoring strike to Keegan Mulcahy on the very next play, and the Wildcats took a 20-7 lead and never looked back.
"I really thought he was down, but they made the call and that's football," Reynolds said. "That's Trent. He's a three-year varsity starter and was just trying to make a play for his team."
The breaks continued to go against the Huskies on the next drive when fullback Nathan Ahlers received a concussion following a long run and never returned.
But even without their leading rusher, Little was able to lead Sutter down to the Marin Catholic 30.
It was there when he dropped back and threw a perfect ball to a streaking Alex Ingram near the end zone. However, Marin Catholic safety Sam Killpack came out of nowhere to make an interception to deny Sutter a scoring opportunity.
The Wildcats then put the game away in the fourth quarter with an 16-play drive that took nearly 8 minutes off the clock. Goff completed passes of 22 and 16 yards on third-and-longs, and moved the chains again with a 17-yard run on a third-and-6.
The Huskies' defense stiffened at the goal line, but Chris Hill kicked a 19-yard field goal with 2:22 to go for the final points of the game.
But even with the loss, Sutter gained respect. And for many of them, that's all that matters.
"We came out and did our best. We represented the Northern Section and showed we're legit," said Sutter defensive end Garrett Wallace, who recorded a sack and a fumble recovery in the game. "It's not about winning, it's about family and I'm happy to have these guys in my life. I will never forget them."