After losing 28-14 in a tough game to Butte College at home on Oct. 18, the Rams are now searching for answers to turn their season around. Since the season began six weeks ago, the Rams have lost three of their six games, something that hasn’t happened at City College for almost 20 years.
To make matters worst, starting quarterback Chris Forni is out for the season with a broken collarbone after taking a hard hit from a Butte defender early in the game’s first quarter. On that same drive, backup quarterback John David Buonantony also left the game with a shoulder injury, forcing the Rams to play third-string quarterback Kevin Vye. Defensive end Mario Johnson is also out for the season, after being carted off the field with an leg injury.
“We’re not in a good place,” said Head Football Coach George Rush. “What we need to do is play one game at a time and forget the long term goals right now. Losing Forni is a big loss.”
Forgetting long-term goals is tough to do for a program that sets high expectations. With five national championships, five state titles, eight Northern California championships, and 15 conference titles since 1990, players come to City College for one thing: Championships.
Offense has become an area that the Rams have struggled with the most this season. With four new starters on their offensive line, the Rams have been forced to pass more than they would like due to their running game being non-existent. Penalties, turnovers and poor special teams are some of the challenges contributing to the Rams’ early season struggles. In addition, the offense has yet to find a consistent rhythm to support what has been a strong defense.
“We’re getting very poor offensive line play, which is putting more pressure on our quarterbacks,” said Rush.
“Our lack of success is revolving around [offensive line play].
“Of the three losses, we were there to win them all. We are just coming up short.”
In the first half of the game versus Butte, the story was the same: inconsistent offense, penalties, but solid defensive play. With Butte facing a third and 6 from its own thirty-nine yard-line, Rams cornerback D.J. Gomes scored his third touchdown of the season when he scooped up a fumble by Butte running back Alex Courtney and scampered his way into the end zone for a thirty-nine yard touchdown. The touchdown gave the Rams their sixth defensive score on the season, putting them up 7-0 at halftime.
All the first-half momentum the Rams went into the locker room with was gone the instant the third quarter began. Butte receiver Kiki Paul received the second half kickoff, racing 89 yards into the end zone to put the Roadrunners on the board. Butte then missed the extra point to keep the Rams up 7-6.
After a punt by the Rams gave Butte great field position the Roadrunners capitalized on the opportunity by kicking a 42-yard field goal, putting them up 9-7. On the Rams’ next offensive possession, Vye hit receiver Daniel Cannon on a quick slant, and Cannon outran everyone for a 68-yard touchdown, giving the Rams a 14-9 lead midway through the third quarter.
After another long kickoff return by Butte that brought the ball inside the Rams 15 yard line, the Rams began to lose their cool. The momentum began to shift, and uncharacteristically the Rams began to get flagged at an alarming rate. On third and 11, the Roadrunners scored on an 11-yard pass play, and took the lead for good at 15-14.
“There was a lot of trash talking out there, and we got caught for it,” said safety Jarrell Harrison, talking about the numerous unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called on the Rams. “It’s just a competitive game.”
The fourth quarter saw the Rams down 21-14. Vye then made one bad throw that would seal the Rams’ fate: As Vye was looking for Cannon, Butte defensive back Anthony Conner stepped in front of Cannon and intercepted the pass, bringing it in for a backbreaking touchdown, putting Butte up 28-14.
Rush praised his defense after the game, despite being put in tough situations.
“Overall I thought our defense played extremely well,” said Rush. “I’m very pleased with the way the defense performed.”
Harrison had a brilliant game, as he was in on an astounding 19 tackles, and had a great interception in the third quarter. Linebacker Joshua Tatum didn’t do too bad himself, contributing with 16 tackles.
“We gotta work on discipline and penalties, but on the path we’re going, this is only going to make us stronger,” said Tatum. “We’re really going to see what we’re made of. The coaches are not going to give up on us, and it’s up to [the players] to get it done.”
As the Rams’ confidence has put to the test, this season still has some potential to be great. A conference championship is still possible, as well as a bowl game.
“At the end of the day, coaches can’t play for the players,” said Rush. “We’ll just keep working hard like we always do, day by day.”