APTOS – Gavilan College went out on a high note Saturday night, grinding out a 59-58 victory over the host Cabrillo College Seahawks at chilly Carl Connelly Stadium.
A second half that featured 10 lead changes, ended with sophomores Jakari Johnson and Nate Ellis running out the clock for the Rams. Cabrillo’s 33-yard field goal attempt to take the lead flew wide left with 1:23 to play.
“I’m very proud of the way our players played,” Gavilan coach Spencer Gilford said. “The players executed the game plan. It was our first road win and gave us four wins for the first time since 2006.”
Johnson rushed for a career-best 163 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Ellis ran for three scores and covered 286 yards through the air with 26 completions. Ellis came up with 11 consecutive completions in the hectic final 30 minutes.
“These are the type of games you live for,” said Ellis. “You dream of being in a game like this. They don’t happen very often so you have to take advantage of them. We’ve been in a couple of shootouts this year.”
Both teams scored nine touchdowns. The margin between winning and losing was left to the conversions. While Cabrillo hit four PATs, Gavilan had three PATs from Seth Holcomb and a fortunate bounce for the Rams to add one two-point conversion.
After Cabrillo scored on the game’s first series, Ram Jerome Brooks blocked Ben Knudson’s point-after kick. Gavilan responded with a patented Ellis scramble and race to a 13-yard touchdown with 11:53 to go in the first period. Holcomb’s try after was blocked, but when Cabrillo recovered and attempted to rush upfield, the Seahawk fumbled the ball into the endzone and Gavilan recovered for the two points.
The Rams enjoyed a rare two-score margin of the contest when Ellis weaved through the Cabrillo defense for a four-yard TD rush and Holcomb converted for a 15-6 margin.
The remainder of the game was dotted with big plays from both sides. Gavilan registered a 31-29 edge in first downs, then highlighted the scoring with two special teams touchdowns.
“We won on offense and we won the special teams battle,” said Gilford. “We won on defense when we needed to at the end.”
Cabrillo struck for a 44-yard touchdown pass with 3:42 left in the first quarter, only to have sophomore Donovan Weatherspoon pierce the Cabrillo coverage for a 76-yard touchdown jaunt on the kick-off.
The second of three Lucas Romaski’s three touchdown passes left the Seahawks trailing 22-19 in the final minute of the quarter, Both teams netted one touchdown in the second quarter. After Brandon Layne threw a 16-yard TD pass for a 26-22 Cabrillo edge, Johnson slipped off left tackle for 10 yards and the 29-26 halftime margin for Gavilan.
Cabrillo did not punt in the final 30 minutes, but turnovers and a failure to stop a fake punt doomed the Seahawks’ comeback bid.
Johnson broke off a 54-yard touchdown dash with 11:40 left in the third for a 35-32 lead. Ellis spotted Michael Deans-Merson for a 21-yard scoring strike with 1:50 to go in the third for a 41-39 lead.
Gavilan carried that two-point margin into the fourth quarter than resulted in three touchdowns each. While the Rams failed to convert a point-after, Cabrillo came up with one successful point-after kick.
After Cabrillo nabbed a 46-41 lead 80 seconds into the fourth, Ellis connected for 13 yards to Deans-Merson to go up 47-46. Layne’s 19-yard TD pass gave Cabrillo a 52-47 edge, setting up a key moment in the action.
Faced with fourth and one at the Ram 42 with 7:44 left in the fourth, Gilford called for a fake punt. Upback Miguel Redmond took the short snap, quickly stepped through a hole at right guard and went untouched 58 yards for a 53-42 Ram lead.
“The key was the center’s block,” said Redmond, the freshman out of Sobrato High. “Once he blocked the first guy, the hole was there.”
Cabrillo’s closing touchdown, with 6:37 left, came on a Layne 23-yard slant pass to Tige McSwain Jr. for a 58-53 lead. The two-point pass attempt failed.
Johnson ignited the winning touchdown march of 64 yards with two runs for first downs, one on a third and one, another on a fourth and three with 3:36 left. Two plays later, Ellis again avoided Cabrillo rushers and found the left pylon for an eight-yard touchdown run.
Gavilan finished the Coast Conference season with a 2-3 mark, including a pair of one-point losses.
“I knew we’d come out and play,” said Gilford. “I knew we had that ‘never say die’ attitude.”