Despite a strong effort, Healdsburg Greyhounds took a 28-14 pummeling Friday night from the Sonoma Valley Dragons at Healdsburg High's homecoming game at Recreation Park.
The Hounds, struggling with a young team -- including four sophomores on defense -- had trouble "finishing the job" to score, even when handed errors by Sonoma Valley, said Hounds Head Coach Todd Beth.
"We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot," Beth said after the game. "That's something a young team has to learn."
In particular, a fumble recovery by Healdsburg deep in Dragons territory in the fourth quarter failed to lead to a touchdown. Then, the subsequent field goal attempt fell flat after a fumbled snap.
"We executed on offense," Beth said. "We just have to finish the job."
The game followed a homecoming parade earlier Friday through downtown Healdsburg, including floats by each class around the theme, "Off to See the Wizard [of Oz]"
Healdsburg's Homecoming Court, announced at halftime, included: senior queen and king, Chiara Nicastro and Connor Mahoney; juniors, Bianca Nicastro and Brody Menzes; sophomores, Amanda Pruitt and Chris Petrone; and freshmen, Elizabeth Nunez and Joe Tomberlin.
Meanwhile, back at the game, Sonoma Valley wasted no time, scoring on their first drive of the game on a touchdown by senior running back Justin McDonald. Then, the Dragons' junior quarterback Dan Deely snuck the ball home after bring the team close to goal with a long pass caught by senior wide receiver Dustin Sloane.
Healdsburg junior running back Trystan Cleaver scored in the second quarter after junior quarterback Scott Reynolds connected on a pass to sophomore tight end Tanner Cristando.
However, the Dragons were not quite done yet. A long pass to Sloane only 19 seconds before the end of the first half also led to a touchdown, bring the score to 21-7 at the half.
In the third quarter, Healdsburg started to get its momentum back. Cleaver scored again when Healdsburg, at its fourth down and about 30 yards out from goal, opted not to kick and went for the touchdown.
A holding penalty against the Dragons that brought the action only 5 yards out from goal helped seal the deal, and the Greyhounds scored, making it 21-14
In the fourth quarter, hopes began to rise for a comeback, but they were dashed somewhat after the failure to score on the fumble recovery and then the unsuccessful field goal attempt.
Nonetheless, there was a renewal of excitement when Healdsburg successfully stopped the next Sonoma Valley drive in its tracks, keeping the Dragons from a first down and forcing a turnover only about 20 yards out from goal.
But the Greyhounds were unable to take it in for the TD. The Dragons got the ball back and were able to score on their next drive on a touchdown by McDonald, making the final score 28-14.
"We learned a lot in this game," Beth told his team in a post-game briefing. "Don't hang your heads; be proud of yourselves.
"And come back strong Saturday against Piner," he said.
Saturday's game is 1:15 p.m. at Piner High School in Santa Rosa.
With Friday's loss, Healdsburg is 3-5 for the season so far; Sonoma Valley is 4-3.
The Greyhounds junior varsity squad also lost Friday to Sonoma Valley, 34-20.