Five Colusa County athletes help
South end eight-year drought
After his team had secured the first Lions All Star Football Game victory for the South in nearly a decade, head coach Mark Cooley (who heads the football program at Pleasant Valley High School) and his staff huddled to deliberate on who they would name the game’s MVP.
Their players – 28 of the top high school football players in Northern California – were gathered nearby, already prepared for their post-victory photos. A handful of them chimed on the MVP discussion, and they were all saying the same thing: It’s gotta be Dakota.
And so it was.
For Dakota Worl, a Butte College-bound defensive lineman and recent Pierce High School graduate, Saturday’s all star contest in Oroville was the game of a lifetime.
Playing at defensive tackle, Worl intercepted the ball tipped at the line of scrimmage by Pleasant Valley defensive end Salomon Navarro during the North’s opening possession in the second half. Listed at 6 feet 4 inches tall and 300 pounds, Worl sprinted to the end zone, returning the interception 41 yards to give his team six meaningful points, just 57 seconds into the third quarter
“I was totally gassed, I won’t lie,” Worl said of the 41-yard jaunt.
Tired as he may have been, Worl was ecstatic, having scored the first and only touchdown of his high school career against some of the best talent he had ever played against.
“This is the best feeling I’ve had in a long time. Best week ever. All of my teammates, I love ‘em,” Worl said.
Those six points would prove to be the difference, as the South would go on to win 36-30, snapping a losing streak that dated back to 2008.
Along with Worl, former Maxwell middle linebacker/fullback Dylan Jones and former Williams wideout/defensive back Juan Fernandez started on the South’s defense. Jones, who was also a team captain, was forced to leave the game with an injury early in the first half.
Former RedHawk Graeson Bell saw extended time on the South’s defense as well, and was involved in several big plays in the second half. Fellow Colusa High alumnus Justin Pingrey put in work on offense, defense and special teams.
The South got on the board first, driving 80 yards in six plays on the game’s opening possession. Pleasant Valley High School quarterback Kyle Lindquist connected with fellow Viking Payton Williams on a fade for a 24-yard touchdown. On the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, Lindquist rolled to his right and found Paradise’s Riley Potthast in the back of the end zone to put the South up 8-0.
The North went three-and-out on their next possession and were forced to punt, but an interception on a halfback pass just two plays later gave them the ball back at their own 35 yard line. Mount Shasta quarterback Thairen Sivongsa plunged into the end zone from one yard out to cap a six-play, 65-yard scoring drive, then found an open receiver in the flat to tie the game at 8-8 with 5:15 left in the first quarter.
Each team saw a drive stall before the South struck again, this time following a nine-play, 54-yard drive. On first-and-10 from the North’s 13 yard line, Lindquist rolled right on a bootleg and threw back across his body to an open Potthast. Durham’s Jared Heath entered the game as quarterback for the two-point conversion attempt and connected with East Nicolaus’ Nolan Goyet to put the South up 16-8.
It took the North just five plays to answer back: On fourth down at the South’s 16-yard-line, Sivongsa and Lassen’s Colby Harris connected for a touchdown. The North attempted to rush for the two-point conversion, but Piere’s Worl broke through the line and stuffed the run in the backfield to keep South up 16-14.
After a South punt, Sivongsa went back to work, orchestrating a ten-play, 71-yard scoring drive. He connected on passes of 11, 11, 9, 17, and 23 yards, with the latter being a touchdown pass to Anderson’s Seth White, who was left uncovered deep down the middle on a post route. Sivongsa hit David Ruiz, of Yreka, to convert on the two-point attempt and put the North up 22-16.
After a touchback, South starting quarterback Lindquist lofted up a dangerous pass on second-and-10 from the 20 yard line. Fellow Pleasant Valley standout Salomon Navarro came down with it and ran for a 40 yard completion. Back-to-back penalties against the North, the first for pass interference and the second for roughing the passer, gave the South first and goal from the 10 yard line. On first down, the South’s coaches reached into their bag of tricks and pulled out the State of Liberty: Lindquist faked a throw and handed the ball off behind his back to Paradise’s Austin Garber, who beat a hesitating defensive end to the corner and sprinted untouched for a 10-yard touchdown. Potthast kicked the extra point through the uprights to put the South up 23-22.
The score would stay there until Worl’s heroics put the South up 30-22 in the first minute of the third quarter.
Following his interception return, the South defense forced a three-and-out, but a booming punt pinned their offense back at their own 7 yard line. The field position battle paid off for the North when East Nicolaus’ Nolan Goyet fumbled away possession at the South’s own 16 yard line. Enterprise’s Will Asnicar threw a touchdown for the North on a halfback pass on third down, and a successful two-point conversion tied the game at 30-30.
The following possession, the South went 64 yards in 10 plays before their drive stalled at the North’s 16 yard line and they turned the ball over on downs. After grabbing two quick first downs, a pair of holding penalties hurt the North, giving them third-and-25 at their own 22 yard line. The North elected to hand the ball off to Johnny Iniguez, of Fall River, who nearly made a play. Iniguez took a handoff for a sweep play that was supposed to go to the left, reversed field to the right and got to the corner with a blocker in front of him. Colusa’s Graeson Bell fought through the lead blocker to bring Iniguez down, limiting the damage to 10 yards and keeping the North well short of the marker as time ran out in the third quarter.
After the sides traded possession, the South scored the game-winning touchdown with 5:48 remaining in the final quarter. On third-and-goal from the 4 yards line, Lindquist hit Gridley’s Parker Dixon for a touchdown. A botched hold threw off the extra point attempt, but the South were up 36-30.
The North marched 68 yards in twelve plays before being faced with a third-and-6 on the South’s 12 yard line. A flag for holding deep in the backfield made it third-and-26 at the 32 yard line. Sivongsa missed a receiver deep on third down, and was sacked by a host of South defenders – among whom was Bell – on fourth down, and the South took a knee to run out the clock.■