By Alec White and Meyer Gorelick
The Rams played the number one ranked team in California, the San Mateo Bulldogs, with their playoff dreams on the line Saturday, Nov. 16.
The game was a battle into the 4th quarter with the Rams scoring early via a touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Ethan Bullock to sophomore wide receiver Kenden Robinson Jr. with a little over 11 minutes left in the 4th quarter, cutting the deficit to 38-31.
Soon after, the Bulldogs put the nail in the coffin by finishing the game on an 88-yard touchdown drive, and beating the rams 45-31. The Bulldogs took the Bay 6 Conference title back to San Mateo, and also cut the Rams’ hopes of making the playoffs short.
Finishing the regular season with a 7-3 record, the Rams earned a berth in the Golden State Bowl and hosted the Shasta College Knights to close out the year on Saturday, Nov. 23. The game was a wild back-and-forth shootout, with neither side managing to definitively take control of the game.
Despite not having first-string quarterback Bullock due to injury, the Rams got out to an early lead with two first quarter passing touchdowns from sophomore quarterback Jacob Cruz, to Robinson Jr. and sophomore wide receiver Christian Willis, making it 14-3 Rams by the end of the first quarter.
But the Knights swung the momentum their way and after outscoring the Rams 20-7 in the second quarter, carried a 23-21 lead into halftime.
The Rams struggles bled into the second half as the Knights ground out a methodical five minute 75 yard touchdown drive, and then forced a Rams three-and-out. With a 30-21 lead the Knights had an opportunity to seize control of the game with a field goal, but the 38-yard attempt was blocked, handing the ball back to the Rams, who roared back into the game.
After a Ram touchdown off the heels of a big fourth-down conversion to make it a one possession game, they forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
Standout running back and Offensive MVP of the bowl game, freshman Jarmar Julien Jr. ran in from two yards for the second of his three touchdowns to give the rams a 35-30 lead with 13:21 remaining in regulation.
But the Knights were determined to spoil the Rams comeback with one of their own. In dramatic fashion, they thwarted two Ram goal-line stands with tough fourth-down short distance rushing touchdowns, giving Shasta a 43-35 lead with 3:46 to go.
On the final drive, Cruz was sacked on back to back plays, pushing the Rams back to fourth and 22 with the season on the line. The Rams needed a miracle or two if they wanted to keep their Golden State Bowl title hopes alive, and freshman wide receiver Traivion Mullen obliged. He caught a 32 yard pass to convert the fourth down.
He proceeded to shred the Knights secondary, with two more catches, the second being a 26-yard touchdown to make the score 41-43 with 1:19 left. The Rams had the opportunity to tie the game with a two-point conversion.
A costly delay of game penalty set them back, making the conversion a seven-yard attempt rather than two, upping the degree of difficulty significantly.
The Rams rode the hot hand, and Mullen, with a defender draped all over him, caught the game-tying two-point conversion despite a pass-interference flag against the defense.
Deadlocked at 43-43 at the end of regulation, the thriller went into overtime. After the Rams lost the toss, Julien Jr. walked into the endzone from two yards out to complete a drive that started at the 25-yard-line (as per community college football overtime rules), putting the home team up 50-43.
Shasta had the opportunity to even the game, but their season ended on a fourth down interception by Rams sophomore Isaiah Mays.
Players were thrilled to pull out the dramatic victory, but the bowl game title felt a little hollow, given the state and national championship aspirations that they opened the season with.
“It was a good season, we could’ve done better,” said late-game savior Drummer after the victory. “We coming back bigger and better next year.”
“We’re all a little disappointed that we fell short this season, but happy it ended on a good note,” said Golden State Bowl MVP Cruz. “It was good being a Ram.”