One week after playing one strong half of football against highly ranked Costa Costa College, the Gavilan Rams made enough big plays in both halves to pull out a 33-29 non-conference victory over the College of the Redwood Corsairs Saturday afternoon.
Jakari Johnson caught two touchdown passes and threw the winning touchdown pass in the closing minutes as the Rams moved to 1-3 going into the final week of play before the Coast Conference schedule beckons.
“From last week to today, the biggest thing was we played a full game,” explained Rams coach Spencer Gilford. “We still hurt ourselves. We can’t keep spotting them early touchdowns, but we handled the adversity and were able to win the game.”
Johnson caught touchdown passes of 46 and 15 yards from starting quarterback Nate Ellis, then paired up with quarterback Seth Holcomb for a halfback pass to a wide-open Trevin Kelley with 4:03 left in the game to erase a 29-26 deficit.
Holcomb was called on to direct the offense when Ellis was helped off the field with 6:06 left in the third quarter. With backup Brandon Pickens not dressed for the game, Holcomb came through with 92 yards on a 5 for 10 passing effort.
“Seth performed admirably,” said Gilford.
As much as the two offenses churned out big chunks of yardage and disdained punts for most of the contest, special teams play was a key to the final result.
After Miguel Redmond busted through right tackle for two yards and a touchdown to put the Rams up 20-14 with 4:43 left in the third quarter, the Corsairs regained the lead on a turnover. A high snap on the Gavilan punt allowed rusher Lennox Costales to pick up the loose ball at the Ram two and step into the endzone for a 21-20 lead for the visitors.
The favor was returned in the fourth quarter. Setting up at the Corsair 16, punter Cory Weick’s punt was blocked by Cody Diller, who garnered the ball in th endzone for a touchdown and 26-21 Ram advantage.
The blocker at the right end of the Redwood line “took too many steps back,” said Diller. “That opened the gap for me. Bad positioning for him and I got lucky.”
Gavilan had little time to enjoy the lead. Jacob Duilio’s kickoff return covered 65 yards, setting up an 18-yard TD toss from Will Hissong to Lomboy Chavez for a 29-26 Corsair edge.
Two series later, Gavilan scored on one play for the winning touchdown. Holcomb drilled a backward pass to Johnson in the left flat. The defense swarmed toward the deceptive runner, who fooled the advancing Corsairs by lofting a pass to a wide-open Kelley for the 53-yard strike.
“We practiced it on the sideline, making sure we had it down,” said Holcomb. “The O-line did a heckuva job all game for me. They gave me the time and the skill players made the big plays.”
Hissong threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns, but the Rams came through with four interceptions.
“Turnovers in the red zone,” turned out to be the difference, according to first-year Corsair coach Chris Vicory. “We gave up a special teams touchdown and a gadget touchdown. We played hard defensively but you can’t turn the ball over that many times and put the defense in bad spots.”
After Hissong threw a 36-yard touchdown pass with 9:02 left in the first quarter on what Gilford called a missed assignment. Johnson jetted 46 yards to a touchdown two plays later to trail 7-6. Hissong responded with a 38-yard TD pass behind the defense later in the first quarter. The Rams ended the first half scoring when Ellis guided the hosts to an 80-yard march ending on a 15-yard pass to Johnson.
“We had been taking too many negative plays,” said Gilford. “We just decided to put the foot down and get upfield. We made a stop at the end and then made a play for a final first down.”
Ellis completed his first 10 pass attempts, finishing 16 for 21 for 217 yards. Mike Pirnik made two of the Ram interceptions. Both teams missed two field goals, a key to the outcome according to Vicory,