Above image: Rams defensive tackle Tevita Fehoko (Photo by Gabriela Reni/The Guardsman)
By Kyle Honea and Teddy Luther
City College’s title defense got off to a rough start Friday night in Oakland. Losing 18-13 to Laney College in their season opener, the Rams suffered an early-season blow in their effort to repeat as state and national champions.
Going into the season, the Rams’ quarterback situation was a bit muddled. Friday’s game did not do much to clear up the picture. Freshman Zach Masoli – younger brother of former City College and University of Oregon standout Jeremiah Masoli – started the game and was intercepted three times in the first quarter.
Laney’s defense came out with a vengeance early, adding a fumble recovery to their three interceptions. They held City College scoreless until Masoli connected with sophomore Chikwado Nzerem for an 80-yard touchdown to open the scoring with less than a minute left in the first quarter.
“The play was called for me so I knew I just had to beat my guy and get open for the touchdown,” Nzerem said.
The Rams defense shut down Laney into the second quarter as their offense began to find it’s rhythm.
Masoli found sophomore Easop Winston for a 21-yard touchdown reception midway through the second quarter to give the Rams a 13-0 lead they would hold until halftime. Their defense holding strong and Masoli appearing to be recovered from his early struggles, the Rams looked in control at the half. Laney thought otherwise.
They quickly got on the board after returning the second-half kickoff 76 yards and converting two fourth downs to cut the Rams’ lead to seven.
Despite his two first-half touchdown passes, Masoli was replaced by sophomore Lavell McCullers in the second half. McCullers kept the Rams offense moving in the third quarter, but a few key dropped passes and a fumble by receiver Kevin Shaa in the red zone turned the momentum in Laney’s direction.
The Rams defense couldn’t keep up their impressive first half efforts, allowing a 95-yard Laney drive midway through the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference in the game.
“We did not tackle well in the second half. In the end, when it came down to it, we just didn’t make the plays we needed to make,” head coach Jimmy Collins told the SF Examiner. “But it’s not the end of the world.”
With the game on the line and only 40 seconds remaining, the Rams drove into Laney territory. McCullers ultimately threw a hail mary into the end zone, but was picked off, leaving the Rams with a disappointing ride back across the Bay Bridge.
The Rams will look to bounce back in their home opener against College of the Siskiyous this Saturday at 1 p.m.