By Jeremy Balan
Senior quarterback Laboyd Ricard provided enough offense on his own in the first half to keep Stuart Hall toe to toe with one of the best 8-man football teams in Northern California, but when he got knocked out of the game momentarily in the third quarter, it all fell apart for the Knights.
Stuart Hall went into the half of their showcase game against Anderson Valley of Boonville tied at 20-20, but when Ricard was injured on its first play of the second half, the Panthers went on a tear and Stuart Hall never recovered in a 64-34 loss on Saturday at Kezar Stadium.
“When Laboyd got hurt, there was an instant impact on the game,” said Stuart Hall head coach Richard Robinson. “He’s one of the players the team really relies on and when he went down, the team lost [its] head a little bit.”
Ricard reentered the game midway through the quarter, but the Panthers had already built a 42-20 lead.
The speedy senior rushed for 139 yards and threw for 122 more on 12-of-14 passing, but the other Knights’ players combined for only 76 yards and the Stuart Hall defense did not have an answer for Anderson Valley senior running back Omar Benavides in the second half.
Ricard scored his third rushing touchdown of the night to cut the Anderson Valley lead to 42-26 with 8:51 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Benavides shut the door on any potential Stuart Hall comeback, scoring touchdowns on his last three touches of the game.
The three scores were from 45, 60 and 29 yards out, and Benavides finished with a game-high 241 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries.
“He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever coached, and he’s probably 140 pounds soaking wet,” said Anderson Valley head coach John Toohey. “He’s out here fighting for everything and is just a great kid.”
After starting the season 5-0, the Knights have dropped their last three games, but in the program’s second year, Robinson still sees this season as a success.
“It was tough for us to take a loss on this stage, but we just need to stay focused,” Robinson said. “We’ve fallen into a slump that we haven’t been able to get out of, but all-in-all it has still been a successful season. We’re improving from last year, and that’s all we have to do, improve every year.”
AV: 11:30 — Marcos Espinoza 5-yard run (conversion failed)
SH: 2:08 — Laboyd Ricard 28-yard run (kick failed)
SH: 6:54 — Nate Rosenblum 1-yard run (conversion failed)
AV: 4:45 — Omar Benavides 6-yard run (Jason Sanchez pass from Garrett Mezzanatto on conversion)
SH: 1:39 — Ricard 3-yard run (Matt McCrum pass from Ricard on conversion)
AV: 0:58 — Sanchez 41-yard pass from Mezzanatto (conversion failed)
AV: 10:47 — Mezzanatto 5-yard run (conversion failed)
AV: 7:47 — Sanchez 15-yard pass from Mezzanatto (Mezzanatto run on conversion)
AV: 5:53 — Sanchez 5-yard pass from Mezzanatto (Scott Johnston run on conversion)
SH: 8:21 — Ricard 6-yard run (conversion failed)
AV: 8:03 — Benavides 45-yard run (Sanchez pass from Mezzanatto on conversion)
AV: 4:05 — Benavides 60-yard run (Eduardo Torales run on conversion)
SH: 3:16 — Ethan Hankins 15-yard pass from Ricard (Tray’von Hicks run on conversion)
AV: 2:13 — Benavides 29-yard run (conversion failed)