Napa coach is far from black and blue


Troy Mott could predict the outcome of the Black and Blue Bowl between Will C. Wood and Vacaville high schools Friday night, but the Napa football coach will respectfully refrain from doing so.

Mott’s unbeaten Indians swept the Wildcats and Bulldogs, so he has a good idea what it takes to beat each team. To offer a prediction, however, would be pouring salt in wounds too fresh.

Reese Peterson (90) and Nate Villalobos carry Big Black into Tom Zunino Stadium.

Reese Peterson (90), Nate Villalobos and two Vacaville teammates carry Big Black into Tom Zunino Stadium.

To figure out which team he believes will prevail, ask Mott to explain how Napa beat Wood 38-21 on Oct. 16 and Vacaville 28-21 a week later. The scores suggest the Indians had an easier time against the Wildcats, but Mott painted a far different picture when he reflected on the victory.

In fact, Mott said Wood taxed his team so much that his players had not fully recovered by the time they returned to Tom Zunino Stadium to face Vacaville. Napa had the misfortune in consecutive weeks of facing the only other contenders for the Monticello Empire League championship.

Mott was a bit disappointed in his team’s performance against the Bulldogs even after the Indians rallied to win the battle of 2-0 MEL squads by scoring two touchdowns in the final three minutes.

“We didn’t play up to par, but we did enough,” Mott said in a telephone interview Monday. “A lot of that was our doing. Some of that was (the Bulldogs’) doing. I don’t think we were there on the physical side, coming off a hard-hitting game against Wood. We weren’t sharp defensively.”

Fortunately for the Indians, quarterback Cal Bard cured their hangover by tossing his only touchdown pass of the night with 57 seconds to play. Bard also rushed for 87 yards and two scores.

“He’s fearless,” Mott said of Bard, who wears the same jersey number (11) as Mott did when Mott was Napa’s quarterback in the 1980s. “He’s a lot like John Boyett (who led Napa to a Sac-Joaquin Section championship in 2007). He’s not the same athlete, but he has that same mentality.”

That a pass decided the Napa-Vacaville game was somewhat of a shock since each team relies on running. Napa employs its ground game on 80 percent of its plays (427 rushing attempts to 101 passing), and Vacaville does so on 77 percent (362 rushing attempts to 104 passing).

Marcus Howard can count on Damon Lewis to carry the ball.

Marcus Howard can count on Damon Lewis to carry the ball for the Wildcats in the Black and Blue Bowl on Friday night.

Mott must have been shocked when Vacaville scored twice through the air against Napa. Senior quarterback Gabe Caravantes, who also wears No. 11, set season highs in passing attempts (14) and completions (seven), with scoring passes of 52 and 10 yards to junior Beau Lopez.

Then again, Mott knows to expect nothing less from Vacaville offensive coordinator Chris Santopadre.

“Chris is phenomenal at what he does,” Mott offered. “It’s like a chess game against their coaching staff.”

Napa’s chess game with Wood also presented a challenge for Mott because the Wildcats’ offense is more balanced. Wood throws on 46 percent of its plays with senior quarterback Marcus Howard pulling the trigger to the tune of 2,456 yards, 28 touchdowns and just six interceptions.

Three of those interceptions came against Napa, and Parker Totty returned one 52 yards for a third-quarter touchdown. Napa scored two more touchdowns in the period for a 31-13 lead.

Hounding the 5-foot-9 Howard was the Indians’ defensive plan, Mott said, and they did so without blitzing.

“We wanted to push pocket and get our hands in (Howard’s) face,” Mott said. “We weren’t athletic enough to blitz them. We did what we could to limit them while knowing we couldn’t match up.”

As the Indians pulled away, the Wildcats’ offensive balance went away. Wood was held to a season-low 110 rushing yards on 21 attempts, forcing Howard to throw the ball a season-high 38 times.

Take another look at two of those numbers – 38 and 21. That was the final score.

The Wildcats are 2-4 in 2014 and ’15 when Howard has more than 30 passing attempts. He threw 35 times with no touchdowns and three interceptions last year in Wood’s 42-14 loss to Vacaville.

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