By Patrick Cochran/Staff Writer
The season ended the way the Rams thought it always would — as state and national junior college champions.
In a game with everything on the line, the Rams came through in a hard fought match with a 26-14 victory over the Southern California champions Saddleback College Gauchos.
“At City College, the goal every year is to win a state and national championship,” head coach Jimmy Collins said after the win on his team’s home field. “To have it, and the way it happened, is pretty special.”
Both teams had a slow first half and the Rams made some critical mistakes that prevented them from a larger lead at halftime. The Ram’s lone score came late in the first quarter when quarterback Anthony Gordon threw a six-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andrew Vollert. A missed extra point left the Rams with a 6-0 lead — a score that wouldn’t budge the rest of the first half.
The second half proved much more exciting as running back Namane Modise had an electrifying performance rushing 253 yards on 37 carries with two touchdowns. Although small, Modise is a quick and shifty runner who shows no fear about getting hit by defenders who weigh a hundred or more pounds than him.
The Rams’ first touchdown of the second half happened because of Modise’s herculean performance. Midway through the third quarter, the Rams’ offense was driving and was 35 yards away from the end zone.
On first down, the Rams handed it off to Modise who burst thru the defense for a 20-yard gain. Next play it went to Modise again for six-yards and the Rams were inside the 10-yard line.
Sencing that there was no reason to tinker with something that was working fine, the Rams again handed it off to Modise who rushed eight yards all the way to the one-yard line. One yard away from scoring, the Rams gave it to Modise one last time and he awarded their confidence in him with an easy one-yard touchdown rush. Hitting the subsequent extra point, the Rams were up 13-0 with 20 minutes left in the game.
Modise played a critical role on every scoring drive in the second half. On the Rams’ next scoring drive, Modise dashed through the defense for a 36-yard run. On Saddleback’s 40-yard line, Gordon handed the ball off to Modise who cut and juked his way through the defense all the way to the four-yard line.
A couple plays later, Gordon found star wide receiver Easop Winston open in the center of the endzone and rocketed the ball towards Winston for the six-yard touchdown pass.
“At halftime coach said the ball would be coming my way at some point,” Winston said. “I fumbled in the first half but coach trusted me. Fortunately, I got my opportunity and I turned it into a touchdown.”
Modise, sparkled even more on the Rams’ final scoring drive, executing what was arguably his most exciting play of the day. After a Saddleback turnover on downs, the Rams began their drive on their own 18-yard line.
On the first play of the drive, Gordon handed the ball off to Modise who ran behind the offensive line on the right side. After breaking through Saddleback’s front seven, Modise juked one defender and made another defender dive face first into the ground trying to bring him down. Modise crossed midfield and started sprinting towards the left sideline with a plethora of defenders trailing him. He made it all the way to Saddleback’s 25-yard line before someone finally tackled him gaining 57 yards in the process. A couple plays later, Modise would finish off the drive with a five-yard touchdown giving the Rams a 26-0 lead.
Saddleback would try to mount a comeback in the game’s final minutes. They were able to score two quick touchdowns, narrowing the Ram’s lead to 26-14. But it was too little, too late.
The Rams swept post-game honors with Modise claiming Most Valuable Player, quarterback Gordon earning the Most Outstanding Offensive player award, and linebacker Nick Pierotti capturing the Most Outstanding Defensive player award.
Modise was extra grateful for since he got a chance to shine in the biggest game of the season. Usually the Rams’ backup running back, Modise got to start because of a knee injury to the usual starter Elijah Dale.
Modise took the opportunity and ran with it, dazzling the fans with his big-play ability. After the game, the first person Modise mentioned was Dale who he said was instrumental in making him a good running back.
“Elijah Dale is my brother. I am a freshman; he is a sophomore. He made sure to show me the ropes and show me the way,” Modise said. “If it wasn’t for him there wouldn’t be no me because he taught me everything; how to pick up blitzs; how to make reads. This one is for E.D.”
After the game, coach Collins was extra impressed with Modise’s performance. “He might of just gotten himself a division one scholarship the way he played.”
In his first season as head coach of the Rams, Collins was able to win City College’s 10th state championship. Following in the footsteps of legendary head coach George Rush, Collins finished the season with a 12-1 record and winning both the state and national championship in his first season.
For the players, the win was tremendously exciting though not unexpected. “For two weeks we prepared,” Modise said. “We knew if we did that it would be easy money.”
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