By Patrick Cochran
The Rams started the 2017 season in a disappointing fashion losing their first two games to Laney and College of Siskiyous. Squaring off against a typically strong American River, the Rams desperately needed a win to turn around their season. Despite the difficult opponent and tremendous amount of pressure, the Rams were able to beat American River 40-26 and in the process revealed themselves to be a team that could vie for a state title.
It was an exciting game that had the Rams take the lead early. American River tried to claw their way back with no success.The Rams were able to successfully hold them off for the victory.
The victory gives the Rams momentum as they begin to their in-conference schedule.
“Sometimes the season doesn’t start the way you want it but if you have the heart this team has and the desire to compete every single down you can turn it around,” Head Coach Jimmy Collins said.
The Rams started the game off with an exciting 65 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Zach Masoli to wide receiver Khalil Hudson. A blown coverage by American River allowed Hudson to be wide open and Masoli took advantage of the situation finding Hudson for the score.
Less than a minute later the Rams would have the ball again after defensive end Jonathan Pohahau forced American River running back Marcel Brown to fumble the ball and linebacker Anthony Porter recovered the fumble. With only 30 yards separating them from the end zone Masoli marched the offense down to the 6-yard line in only 3 plays. Masoli then ran the ball in on a 6 yard run to get the touchdown. Kicker Greg Thomas made the extra point, after missing his first attempt, to give the Rams a 13-0 lead.
American River was able to score later in the 1st quarter narrowing the Rams lead to 13-6. American River’s quarterback Hunter Rodrigues, a dynamic player capable of throwing and running the ball, found receiver Devin Brocchini open on a beautiful touchdown pass after Brocchini burns past the Rams secondary for a 27-yard touchdown.
The offense was able to score three more times during the 1st half. Late in the 1st quarter Masoli found running back Isaiah Floyd wide open in the middle of the field for a 27-yard touchdown pass that completed a 69-yard drive. Later on kicker Greg Thomas nailed a 22 yard field goal to give the the Rams a 23-6 lead.
The final score of the half for the Rams came when running back Isaiah Floyd busted his way through the opponent’s defensive front for a 2-yard touchdown run that concluded a 9 play, 85-yard drive.
American River would strike back with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Rodriguez to receiver Ryan Robards with seven seconds left in the 1st half contracted the Rams lead to 30-13.
In the 2nd half it appeared that the Rams were losing momentum and would let the game slip out of their hands. In the 3rd quarter American river scored twice. First on a 19-yard run by running back Evyn Holtz and then later in the quarter on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Rodrigues to receiver Brandon McCarter.
Instead of hitting the panic button the Rams played the rest of the game focused and were able to keep American River from scoring again while scoring more points on offense.
The key play that let the Rams regain control of the game was a fumble recovery by linebacker Anthony Porter. It was the beginning of the 4th quarter and American River Marcel Brown had the ball. Defensive lineman Jeffrey Branner hit Brown knocking the ball loose. Porter was able to pick up football and streaked down the left sideline before being forced out of bounds at the 9-yard. With such great field position the Rams were able to easily score with Masoli getting the touchdown on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to further the Rams lead to 37-26.
“I was in the right place to grab the ball,” Porter said. “Once I had the ball I hit it real hard and while I wasn’t able to score I did give the offense momentum and good field position.”
Porter had an outstanding game with 3 fumble recoveries during the game to go along with his 9 tackles.
With the momentum of the game back in their hands the Rams didn’t let American River score the rest of the game and scored more points when Thomas hit another field goal, this time for 36-yards to set the final score at 40-26.
Masoli had a superb afternoon behind center completing 15 out 24 passes for 242 yards passing with two touchdowns while also rushing for 40 yards with two rushing touchdowns. It was a great bounce back game for Masoli after looking inconsistent in the Ram’s first two games.
“Zach was as in control as any quarterback we’ve had in a long time during that game,” Collins said. “He was putting on the majority of the plays in the first half, he was just doing it at the line of scrimmage, adjusting the play. He was physically making plays and using his legs. His game management was just exceptional.”
“I was feeling real comfortable today,” Masoli said. “The game plan was great this week and we all did a great job of executing it. We had a few up-and-downs in the 2nd half but we get the win. We had a complete team win today.”
Collins was in a jubilant mood celebrating with his players after the win on the way to the locker room.
“This game was the right step in the right direction,” Collins said. “We are a group capable of winning the conference and going into the playoffs and we showed that we can do that today.”
If the Rams maintain this caliber of play, the rest of the conference certainly has something to fear.