That was also the last time the Panthers started the season 3-0, an achievement they matched with a 40-35 win against Napa on Friday.
The game’s most important play came in the fourth quarter. Antioch led 28-21, but the Indians offense was beginning to move the ball at an alarming pace. Napa senior running back Zack Schienholz took the snap, but coughed up the ball. That’s when Antioch (3-0) junior defensive back Darrin Jones took over. He scooped up the fumble and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown.
“I saw the ball on the ground and my eyes got big,” Jones said. “All I had to do was grab the ball and go. We played awesome tonight. We never gave up. All we had to do was believe.”
Napa (3-2) would score two more touchdowns, but sandwiched between those was a 76-yard run from senior running back Eddie Robinson that kept Antioch’s lead at two possessions. Napa scored with 1:31 left when senior quarterback Zack Sims hit senior receiver Taylor Martin on an 18-yard touchdown pass. But when Panthers’ senior quarterback Troy Amate recovered the ensuing onside kick, all Antioch needed to do was run out the clock.
The game could not have started worse for Antioch. After a long kickoff return by senior Jeremy Bittle was nullified by a penalty, Amate suffered a miscommunication and threw his first pass right at Indians’ junior defensive back Zach Jones. Four plays later, senior running back Michael Richmond gave Napa its only lead of the night on a one-yard touchdown run.
Amate settled down after that interception, completing 14 of 22 passes for 201 yards and TD strikes to Jones and junior running back Elbert Hamilton. Hamilton rushed for 58 yards on 11 carries and caught two passes for 31 yards. Robinson notched 110 yards on 10 carries.
“I just put it behind me,” Amate said of his interception. “I just thought about the next play and the plays after that. It’s just one interception. I had plenty more passes to go.”
Antioch is guaranteed to go into league play with a winning record. Both of the Panthers’ remaining preseason games are at home.
Since the Bay Valley Athletic League was shrunk to six teams in 2008, Antioch has never completed its five-game preseason with a winning record. Panthers head coach John Lucido knows that his players need to keep winning once league play begins.
“Things are going well,” Lucido said. “Obviously, we have some things to work on defensively. Going into league, we know things are going to be tough. Everybody, every year is tough. But we’re off to a good start, as long as we stay healthy. The kids are all staying positive. We haven’t had that for a couple of years.”
Antioch will host Mt. Diablo and Northgate before opening its league season on Oct. 14 at Heritage. Not only do the Panthers have a perfect record; they've proven an entertaining team to watch. Through three games, they're averaging just fewer than 42 points per contest.
Junior varsity: Antioch’s junior varsity squad didn't match the success of its varsity counterpart. Alex Obias did hit Jeremiah Sturgis on a touchdown pass, but it was the Panthers' only score of the night. The Indians won 28-7, dropping Antioch’s record to 1-2.
Other BVAL scores
Deer Valley 54, College Park 28
Deer Valley’s offense, led by senior running back Matt Smith, exploded in a 54-28 victory Friday night against College Park.
“It was a great win for our guys,” head coach Rich Woods said. “They moved the ball pretty darned good.”
The Wolverines (2-2) punted just once on Friday, a testament to how well the offense was able to penetrate the Falcons (1-3) defense. But it was a costly victory. Senior tight end/linebacker Elijah Iakopo suffered a neck injury and was taken to the hospital. Woods said the hospital visit was precautionary and that Iakopo is doing fine. Iakopo should be ready to go in a couple weeks.
Deer Valley continues its non-league slate next week in Vacaville.
Freedom 42, Golden Valley 16
The Falcons are off to a hot start this season, as they advanced to 4-0 Friday with a 42-16 victory over Golden Valley in Merced.
Junior quarterback Dante Mayes passed for 271 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore running back Joe Mixon posted another big game, running for three touchdowns and more than 200 yards. Overall, Freedom racked up more than 500 yards on offense against the Cougars (1-3).
“We played a complete game from start to finish,” said head coach Kevin Hartwig. “We turned the ball over on our first drive, but then we started clicking.”
The Falcons host College Park next week in Oakley for homecoming.
Miramonte 26, Liberty 17
Liberty held Miramonte close for most of the game, but the Matadors prevailed late in a 26-17 victory on Friday.
“We had a couple bounces not go our way in the last few minutes,” head coach Nate Smith said. “It was a see-saw battle. I thought both teams played with a lot of heart. I tip my hat to both teams for a really hard-fought battle.
Senior running back Jeff Lindsey ran for 128 yards on 18 carries. Junior quarterback Cody Suckow went 3-for-19 passing with one rushing touchdown and one passing touchdown.
Down 10-7 in the waning moments of the first half, Liberty (1-3) senior kicker Kyle Rainsford nailed a 45-yard field goal to tie it up. Miramonte (4-0) scored on a field goal in its first possession of the second half, then added a touchdown, but the Lions blocked the PAT.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Suckow hit junior receiver Nick West for a 32-yard touchdown pass to make it a 19-17 game. But late in the game, a Matador punt took a funny hop and made contact with a Liberty player’s back. Miramonte recovered and scored to secure the victory.
The Lions host Fremont on Friday.
Berkeley 41, Pittsburg 40
In a two-overtime thriller, Berkeley earned its first win against Pittsburg 41-40 on Friday night.
After Pirates (3-1) senior running back Mister Cotton scored to give his team the advantage in the second overtime, the Yellowjackets (1-3) answered with a touchdown run by Rudolpho James. Instead of kicking an extra point, Berkeley opted to go for two points and the win.
Another run by James sealed the Berkeley victory.
Pirates senior fullback Fe'ao Vunipola finished with 95 yards on 12 carries. James racked up 140 yards on 30 rushes. Pittsburg senior quarterback Malik Watson threw for 219 yards – 166 of which went to senior Terrance Barnes.
The Pirates welcome Granite Bay to Pittsburg next week.
James Logan 42, Heritage 28
Read the game story here.