Redwood Empire Football Weekend

Windsor head coach D.J. Sexton (left) takes photo with the rest of his players after triumph over previously unbeaten Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa. At right, QB Caedon Afsharipour of Marin Catholic is wrapped up by the San Marin of Novato defense during team’s loss on Saturday afternoon. Photos: Mark Tennis & Willie Eashman.

There wasn’t a wine glass in sight as the schedule for the final weekend of the regular season in the CIF North Coast Section made it possible to see San Marin of Novato (9-0) play Marin Catholic of Kentfield (9-0) plus Windsor (7-1-1) play Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa (9-0) on back-to-back days. Here’s what happened and what’s next for these teams after Sunday’s pairings in the section were announced.

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The two dominant programs in high school football in that part of the CIF North Coast Section known as the Redwood Empire (from Marin County north of the Golden Gate Bridge up to the Oregon border on Highway 101) have been Marin Catholic of Kentfield and Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa.

On the final weekend of the 2023 regular season and in the final year of league alignments that have been in place for many years, both Marin Catholic and Cardinal Newman were in showdown games. Both lost and both lost at home. Marin Catholic fell on Saturday, 10-6, to San Marin of Novato. Cardinal Newman lost on Friday night, 35-21, to Windsor.

Since it’s always been a goal to try to see as many games as possible in different parts of the state, the chance to see both games in one trip was too much to pass up.

Next season, the four teams will all be in a new Redwood Empire Conference (Division I) for football (along with Rancho Cotate of Rohnert Park and Vintage of Napa) due to NCS realignment. This weekend’s games therefore also marked the end of two long-standing leagues (for football only) in the NCS – the Marin County Athletic League and North Bay League.

Going to the two big games also enabled Cal-Hi Sports to be represented since longtime associate editor Harold Abend left the area of his Petaluma hometown two days earlier for a long-planned trip to visit family in Florida and go on a short cruise with them to the Caribbean.

San Marin Makes History

There’s always something special when two 9-0 teams meet on the final day of a regular season to decide a league title. This year, the only one of those matchups in California this season took place on Saturday on a beautiful day in Kentfield when Marin Catholic hosted San Marin of Novato for the Marin County Athletic League title.

Blake Hart scored the only touchdown of the game in his team’s 10-6 victory last Saturday at Marin Catholic. Photo: Mark Tennis / Cal-Hi Sports.

And while it may be unfair to call San Marin’s 10-6 win a big upset, the last time that the Mustangs beat the Wildcats was in 2006, which also is the year when most of the players at San Marin were born. The last time Marin Catholic didn’t win the league title was in 2008 when Novato High was in the middle of a nice run under then head coach Travis Brackett.

It might surprise some to say that the win for San Marin was bigger than winning CIF state championships the last two seasons (D5-AA in 2021 & D4-A in 2022). But if you’ve followed football in the Redwood Empire you know that makes total sense. In both seasons, you see, Marin Catholic won the league title and didn’t win state titles competing in a higher division of the NCS playoffs.

“You’d go into a coffee shop after the state titles and people would say, “Congrats, but when are you going to beat MC?’” said San Marin head coach Dominic Dimare. “They can’t say that anymore.”

San Marin’s offense scored early to take a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard TD pass from Dom Ingrassia to Blake Hart. That score was set up on a 81-yard bomb by Ingrassia to Hart that put the ball at the 2-yard line.

Both defenses settled in after that, but the Marin Catholic offense had a lot of success driving the ball inside the 20-yard line. The Wildcats had the first drive get to the 8-yard line but they ended up punting after two penalties and two sacks. Later in the first half a fumbled center snap caused them to go for a 26-yard field goal after they had first-and-goal at the 2. Charles Lewis made it for a 7-3 contest. Lewis later made a 27-yard field goal with 3:59 left in the first half to make it 7-6.

Both defenses again had their way in the second half. Marin Catholic had a chance to take the lead on three different possessions, but never advanced further than the San Marin 33-yard line. The Mustangs were then backed up to their 1-yard line late in the third quarter but three 15-yard penalties on the Wildcats helped them move the ball down the field for a 41-yard field goal by Lars Rau.

Caedon Afsharipour broke loose from one sack attempt to go on this gainer for Marin Catholic in its loss to San Marin. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Marin Catholic still had a chance to win the game with a touchdown and it got help from two 15-yard penalties to put the ball at the 19-yard line. Their own penalty, a sack by Matthew Giomi and two incomplete passes ended the drive.

With 6:57 still on the clock, common wisdom is that the Wildcats would be able to get the ball back. That didn’t happen. San Marin used short passes by Ingrassia and some hard-running by Charlie Singleton to pick up four first downs. It was able to run out the clock from the Marin Catholic 10-yard line.

Both coaches said the game that was highly anticipated for nearly two months lived up to its billing, especially the way both defenses played.

“They played great defense and we had untimely penalties that made things very difficult for us in many situations,” said Mazi Moayad, who has won 159 games since he took over the Marin Catholic program in 2010. “We had plenty of opportunities to win the game.”

“Everybody expected a shootout, but it’s the old adage that defense wins championships,” Sexton said. “The kids had confidence that they would win. They were ready and prepared for this game.”

Both teams will advance into the NCS playoffs with the Wildcats going to D3 and the Mustangs in D4. Those divisions are pre-determined so the Saturday result didn’t matter. Despite the loss, Marin Catholic was still the No. 1 seed in D3 in Sunday’s pairings and will host Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland next Saturday in the first round of the eight-team bracket. San Marin obviously got the top seed in D4 and plays next at home on Friday night vs Kennedy of Richmond.

The result will come into play if both teams win NCS titles as the CIF regional matchups (leading into the state finals) are dependent on head-to-head results and computer rankings. In that case, San Marin would be in a higher division than Marin Catholic.

San Marin players Wes Garton, Walker Garton, Dominic Ingrassia and Bainy Reier were given Chick-Fil-A sandwiches after their team’s win over Marin Catholic. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Windsor Wins In Familiar Territory

One of the storylines in Friday’s matchup at Cardinal Newman which matched the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat’s area rankings is the connections between the two schools. Windsor head coach Dean “D.J.” Sexton is a Cardinal Newman grad. And one of the Windsor players, center Lonzo Arterberry, used to play at Cardinal Newman as well and in fact is currently involved in a lawsuit against the school suing for discrimination.

When the two teams played last season at Windsor, the Cardinals won on the road, 14-13. It wasn’t a similar game this time. The Jaguars just had too many offensive weapons and came through with a 35-21 win that spoiled Cardinal Newman’s hopes of going 10-0 for the regular season.

Ananias Walker scored the first and last TDs of the night for Windsor on receptions. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Windsor didn’t have Arterberry (still ineligible) or highly recruited receiver Ananias Walker (also not yet eligible) when it lost in the first game of the season (42-39) to CIF Sac-Joaquin Section small school powerhouse Escalon or when it tied NCS D1 school Campolindo of Moraga (14-14) one week later.

“I know I’ve got four D1 receivers out there and that makes my job easier,” said Jaguars’ quarterback Judson Anderson, who passed for four touchdowns and ran for one. “We’ve still got to polish some things and do better up front. If we do that, we can go as far as we want to go in the playoffs.”

Judson’s brother, Hayden, is arguably the best all-around player in the Redwood Empire as the junior wide receiver/defensive back gets a lot of attention and a lot of balls thrown his way. When the defense is then forced to put other players in one-on-one situations against other receivers like Walker or Gunnar Erickson, those can be the passes that go for touchdowns.

That’s what happened on Hayden’s first TD pass to Walker of 20 yards in the first quarter that gave Windsor a 7-0 lead. The Jaguars also scored on their second series on a 1-yard run by Judson Anderson.

Cardinal Newman put together a scoring drive late in the first quarter and into the second that featured the rushing of senior Zach Homan, who plunged into the end zone on a 1-yard run.

Windsor’s defense didn’t give up anything after the Cardinals got their only turnover of the night on a deflected pass that was intercepted by Spencer Jacobs. The Jaguars then made it 21-7 with 2:47 left in the second quarter on a 84-yard scoring drive that saw Anderson hit on a 44-yard TD pass to Max McFerren.

Wyatt Kenechtle was inserted into the QB1 role for Cardinal Newman on the next series and sparked the team on a scoring drive that gave the home crowd a lot of hope since the Cardinals were going to get the ball to start the third quarter. Kenechtle and an 18-yard pass to Kenyon Hanlon-Strane to the 12-yard line, ran for eight yards and then with 11.1 seconds on the clock connected to Zion Cargill for a 4-yard touchdown.

Zach Homan of Cardinal Newman has been one of the leading rushers in Northern California this season. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Instead of giving up a touchdown that would have tied the score to start the third quarter, Windsor’s defense got a stop and then the offense went on a 63-yard scoring drive that was capped on a 12-yard TD pass from Anderson to Walker.

Holding the ball and with a two-score lead later in the third quarter, the script flipped for Windsor on a bad snap from center that resulted in a fumble recovery for Cardinal Newman’s Jesse Myers on the 3-yard line. Homan went in for a score and suddenly with 36.2 seconds left in the quarter it was a 28-21 score.

The fourth quarter was all Jaguars. They answered that Newman score with a 74-yard scoring drive and took a 35-21 lead with 9:54 left on a Judson Anderson to Hayden Anderson 25-yard touchdown pass. The Cardinals didn’t score on their final two possessions.

Judson Anderson ended the night 20 of 31 passing for 295 yards. Hayden caught nine passes for 136 yards, rushed for 32 yards and he had six tackles playing free safety.

“All year for this team it’s been about the next play,” Sexton said amid a raucous celebration. “I’m really proud of how these guys responded tonight. This is a huge win for our program and gives us momentum heading into the playoffs.”

Windsor will be D2 for the NCS playoffs and on Sunday was seeded No. 2 behind El Cerrito, which is 9-1 with its only loss being 31-12 to De La Salle of Concord. The Jaguars are playing their rivals from Rancho Cotate on Friday in the first round.

Cardinal Newman will be D3 for the NCS playoffs and on Sunday was seeded No. 3 behind Marin Catholic and No. 2 Las Lomas of Walnut Creek. It hosts American Canyon in the first round on Friday.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle:

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