A Game To Remember

by Bruce Anderson, November 10, 2011

It was one of those epic high school football games that local fans won't soon forget, and the boys who played it will never forget. In a driving rain on a muddy field at the edge of the Pacific, a tenacious Point Arena football team defeated an equally tenacious Boonville football team with 20 seconds left to play, 26-20.

A cold rain had begun to fall when Boonville won the toss and elected to receive to begin the 2pm game. The many vehicles of Boonville fans lined the east side of the field, outnumbering by maybe ten pick-ups an almost equally sizable turnout of vehicle-clad Point Arenans. Interest in the game was considerable. It was for the league championship, and the Point Arena-Boonville is a sports rivalry that goes way back.

Point Arena's kickoff sailed deep to Boonville's speedy Salvador Gutierrez who ran it back ten yards until his struggling form disappeared beneath a host of Point Arena tacklers. Garrett Mezzanatto, Boonville's all-everything quarterback, valiant all afternoon, went 6 yards on a keeper, and the fight was on.

The rain and the mud translated as lots of Mezzanatto keepers. Ordinarily, Boonville's a passing team, but despite the stellar efforts of a small boy on the Point Arena side of the field to keep the footballs reasonably dry, the ball slipped and slid every which way, and Boonville opted for the safety of Mezzanatto simply running the ball himself. When he did pass, the ball was mostly dropped or slithered through the gloved hands of the receivers — maybe because the gloved hands of the receivers made the ball even slippier, but that's only speculation.

A tall, rangy, strong kid, Mezzanatto kept on keeping the ball on the ground until Boonville was on the Point Arena ten-yard line. A tough run by Marcos Espinoza took Boonville to the Point Arena goal line and, on the next play, the inevitable Mezzanatto bulled in for 6. The point after failed.

Boonville 6, Point Arena 0.

Point Arena's determined Harlan Bailey, along with Dylan Johnson, Point Arena's nifty quarterback Brendan Radtkey, and the Sundstrom brothers, would prove difficult for Boonville all afternoon. A beautiful shoestring tackle by Boonville's Scott Johnstone stopped the galloping Bailey from going all the way on Point Arena's first possession of the game. But the undeterred Bailey, helped along by a 15-yard personal foul call against Boonville, then ran 35 yards for a touchdown. And he ran in the point after, too.

Point Arena 8, Boonville 6.

All that happened in the first 7 minutes of the first quarter, the rest of which, 8 minutes worth, were uneventful except for a couple of Boonville dropped passes and some great defense by Boonville's Keven Kisling, his jersey number already completely obscured by mud.

With the rain coming down harder and harder, Point Arena, on a very nice catch by Marco Davila, found themselves five yards out from the Boonville end zone when Omar Benevides intercepted a Point Arena pass and ran the ball back to the Point Arena ten, from where Mezzanatto, two plays later, on yet another keeper, plunged over the goal line for a touchdown. Omar Benevides ran in the point after.

Boonville 14, Point Arena 8.

Keven Kisling and Sam Arab proceeded to thwart three successive Point Arena runs, and the Pirates were forced to kick. With Boonville back in possession of what amounted to a greased piglet, Mezzanatto was unable to penetrate the stout Point Arena defense on foot so he dropped back to pass. The ball wobbled up into the rain and when it came down Point Arena was in possession. Harlan Bailey then ran forty yards down the sideline for his and Point Arena's second touchdown, but the point after was stuffed by Kisling and the Boonville up-front linemen, and that was the end of the first half.

Boonville 14, Point Arena 14.

As the half ended, an exuberant Point Arena cheerleader turned a cartwheel in the mud in front of the sparsely populated Point Arena grandstand, a Point Arena fan applauded her and the two teams and the four referees ran for shelter.

With the rain now pounding down, the third quarter saw Point Arena stopped twice by Kisling, once when he slammed into the ball carrier, the second time when he full-face smacked Point Arena quarterback Radtkey into the mud for a spectacular sack.

With time running out in the third quarter, and the Boonville defense playing like maniacs to stop Point Arena cold, Mezzanatto connected by air with Salvador Gutierrez for a short-pass touchdown. The Boonville point after failed, but Boonville was ahead, and the Boonville defense seemed to be getting stronger and stronger.

Boonville 20, Point Arena 14.

Early in the 4th quarter Point Arena went to the air, scoring on a long pass up the middle, and the game was tied at 20-20.

With 5:30 to play, Boonville's ubiquitous Omar Benevides intercepted a dying duck of a Point Arena pass and Boonville had the ball on the Point Arena 35. Mezzanatto went up the middle for 5m, and Mezzanatto went up the middle for a first down. Mezzanatto ran for another 7 yards and Boonville was on the Point Arena 10 with a first down. Tension mounted. Point Arena refused to yield and then Mezzanatto, running around end for what would have been the clincher for Boonville, was hit by what seemed like the entire Point Arena defense and went down.And didn't get up. The engine was out of the Boonville car, the big kid was lost to a disabling injury to his knee.

A leisurely Point Arena Ambulance crew ambled over from the Point Arena side of the field, conferred, and ambled back to the Point Arena side of the field as Mezzanatto was carried to the ambulance by his teammates. Later in the evening, after a stay at Coast Hospital in Fort Bragg, Mezzanatto was on crutches, his knee badly swollen but unbroken.

But Boonville's quarterback was out of the game, and Point Arena had the ball with two minutes left to play. A furious Boonville defense stopped Point Arena at the line of scrimmage until their Dylan Johnson ran for a first down with 22 seconds left to play. All Boonville had to do was hang on and they come away with the championship. Point Arena was at mid-field. The rain had stopped.

The clock running, Brendan Radtkey, the Point Arena quarterback, takes the snap and fades back to pass. He throws a perfect spiraling fastball and hits Justin Sundstrom on a bomb up the middle that Boonville's diving Omar Benevides almost got a hand on. But Point Arena had iced it, 26-20.

There was horn-honking jubilation as Pirate fans celebrated, perhaps prematurely. After all, there was still time on the clock, 15 seconds in fact, and in the wide world of sports 15 seconds can be an eternity. Which is what Boonville fans hoped because Point Arena had to kick off to Boonville one last time.

But the fired up Point Arena defense stuffed Boonville's final two plays, the game was over and the trip back over the hill never seemed longer.

Point Arena 26, Boonville 20.

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