Rabukawaqa, Wright lead Montgomery to Huge Win Over Mustangs
Emasi Rabukawaqa ran for 157 yards and 2 TDs and also added a 87 yard kick return TD as Montgomery held off St. Vincent, 37-35, on Friday at Jason Franci Field. Izeyah Wright added 66 yards receiving, a receiving TD and a big 64 yard rushing TD that opened scoring for the game. Wright was the punter for the Vikings and on that specific play, he bobbled the snap and decided to run. He had the blocks and the speed, and took it all the way to the house for what in total was about a 75+ yard TD run, but only 64 yards from the line of scrimmage. "I had the ball, I'm running, I'm like, oh shoot, I'm (going to) get the first down and then I just see more grass. I'm like, alright, shoot, I'm (going to) go inside", Wright said about what he was thinking while he was running for that 64 yard TD. The Vikings took control in the 2nd Quarter when shortly after Rabukawaqua's kickoff return TD, Montgomery was able to get a three and out on defense. The play after getting the ball back, Montgomery QB Bobby McGovern threw a pass that was picked off by Jack Davis on the St. Vincent 3 yard line. Despite the pick, Monty's defense came out strong and was able to make a massive play, putting pressure on St. Vincent QB Gabe Casanovas and forcing him to throw the ball away which turned into an intentional grounding penalty that resulted in a safety as he threw the ball out of a sack in the endzone. Monty was up 2 scores for the first time in the game and never really looked back. They went into half up 23-14 and came out of the half strong, making a stop on defense and letting Rabukawaqa run the ball all the way into the endzone. He was able to break tackles and score on a nice 16 yard run to put the Vikings up, 29-14. Ian Tucker netted the extra point and the Vikings were up by 16. The Mustangs fired back with a rushing TD from Jack Davis to cut the lead to 10 after a blocked PAT, but the Vikings were able to take a three score lead on a 16 yard dime from McGovern to Wright that gave Monty a 37-20 lead.
The Mustangs were able to put together good, long drives which allowed them to stay in the game early on and make a late comeback in the 4th, and their defense was strong against the pass, making some stops and forcing some turnovers. Jack Davis scored on a six yard run to open scoring for the Mustangs and Nour Ebelisy kicked the extra point to tie it 7-7 in the 2nd. Montgomery scored quickly with an eight play, 69 yard drive that concluded with a Rabukawaqa 36 yard rushing TD. St. Vincent kept the pace, though, with an eight play, 80 yard drive that ended with a Casanovas dart to Jack Davis in the endzone for a touchdown and the PAT tied the game. Montgomery wore down St. Vincent though with the kickoff return TD from Rabukawaqa, forcing St. Vincent's offense out again. Monty was able to stop Jack Davis and Ian Tucker sacked Casanovas to force a punt that was kicked 17 yards, and gave Monty great field position. St. Vincent's defense made a big play on Jack Davis' interception, forcing St. Vincent's offense back on the field. Worn down, Monty brought pressure and St. Vincent gave up a safety. St. Vincent defense held up, though, not allowing Montgomery to score again for the rest of the half. After Monty's score that put them up 30-14, St. Vincent mounted an 11 play, 58 yard drive that resulted in a huge TD from Jack Davis that St. Vincent needed to stay in the game. Monty matched them with an eight play, 69 yard drive that finished with a huge TD reception by Izeyah Wright.
The 4th Quarter was a huge one for the Mustangs as they were trying to conserve their 16 game regular season win streak that they had started in 2021 after Montgomery beat them at Jason Franci Field in a thriller. The Mustangs started with a nice rushing TD from Gabe Casanovas to conclude a quick six play, 73 yard drive. Jack Davis broke tackles and took it in for a 2 point conversion that cut the Viking lead to 9, 37-28. Monty mounted a nice drive that set a 36 yard FG for Ian Tucker, but Malcom Rooks was quick off the edge and blocked the kick to give St. Vincent the ball with eight minutes to go. Montgomery's defense stopped St. Vincent, forcing them to punt, but the Mustang defense did it on the other side, holding Montgomery to a three-and-out, and forcing a punt. The Mustangs offense wasn't able to do anything with that stop and were forced to punt again. Montgomery had great field position, but St. Vincent were able to stop the run, and due to some penalties, Monty was backed up. From the St. Vincent 38, the Vikings went for it, but the pass was incomplete. St. Vincent immediately took this opportunity, with Casanovas connecting with Davis for a 29 yard gain and first down in Viking territory. Monty made a stop and forced a 4th down. Davis ran on 4th and 8, but was stopped well short of the line to gain. A flag flew in and Monty was called for a facemask penalty that set St. Vincent up in the redzone. It all lead to a rushing TD from Jack Davis with about 48 seconds left and Ebelisy kicked the PAT to make it a 2 point game. St. Vincent lined up for the onside kick, needing a miracle as they had come all the way back, scored 15 unanswered and were back in the game. The Mustangs lined up and kicked it to the right, but Johnny McIntosh was there, making the play for the Vikes and securing the win.
Montgomery broke the streak and did it in a great game. They established the run with Rabukawaqa despite losing their RB1 last week to injury, and were able to make stops early on defense which allowed them to take control early and hold a big lead for a long time. "I was using a lot of rugby skills, the steps. They gave me a coach to run straight, but I just did my thing, just step around and run the ball," Rabukawaqa said in a postgame interview with Youth Sports Network. Rabukawaqa was playing in his second ever football game as he is Fijian and has a rugby background. Many great Monty players have rugby backgrounds like Waisea Bainibure, a former Monty DT that after graduating last year, is playing pro rugby in Europe according to Montgomery Head Coach Vertis Patton.
Patton called good plays and was also very gutsy, going for it on 4th a number of times and it paid off with the Vikings converting on a 4th and 5 in their own territory in the 3rd Quarter and it lead to the 16 yard TD pass from McGovern to Wright. This was huge for Montgomery as all the momentum for the game was with the Vikings. Trent Herzog is a great coach, though, and St. Vincent has great talent and they were able to rally back. The Vikings defensive line of Bradly George, Alfonso Ortega, Donovan Patterson, and the Monty edge rushers Ian Tucker and Izeyah Wright consistently brought pressure and were huge for the Vikings defensive attack. Riley Hallin kept the perimeter locked down as the defensive held Casanovas, a very good QB, to 11 for 28 for 199 yards. Even though the Mustangs didn't win, they still look like the best team in the Redwood for a 2nd consecutive year. Jack Davis had 148 yards receiving and 38 yards rushing, and scored 4 TDs. He looks to be a front runner for Player of the Year in the Redwood. Montgomery comes away from this game with a huge win to add to their resume and look good heading into NBL Oak play. "It feels great. The kids came out, played a good game, played hard. Before the game, I told them we had to match their intensity and then take it a notch up and to understand that their was going to be things that happen in the game that's not going to go our way and we just have to keep fighting so super happy how the kids played today. I think we let some plays go where we could've scored some more, but that's a good coached team over there and it was a fun game to be a part of. Just happy to get away with the win", Coach Patton had to say postgame about his feelings on the Vikings' performance.
Davis and Casanovas in warmups
This game wasn't as close as the final score showed and Montgomery showed why they belong in the Oak. But, with their late game comeback, St. Vincent showed they might be due for a promotion. I don't think many would complain if Monty and St. Vincent played every year in a conference game if each year is going as good as the last 3 games of this Sonoma County matchup have been.