By Patrick Cochran
It was a rough start of the season for the Rams, who lost 18-13 to Laney across the Bay in Oakland. But at the season’s end on the noon of Dec. 3, they will have a chance to avenge that loss in the San Francisco Community College Bowl.
The Rams finished the season 7-3, unable to qualify for the playoffs and win the state championship title once again. In addition to losing against Laney, the Rams also lost 44-7 to Butte, the number one team in the state, to San Mateo in a 24-21 game.
This season—while successful for the Rams—didn’t quite compare to the 2015 season, when Jimmy Collins took over the program after coaching legend George Rush retired. Winning the title in his first season was a great way for Collins to start his head coaching career.
“You always want to be in the playoffs,” Collins said. “But we can’t let that get in our way while preparing for this game. This is a different team than last year so the fact that we won a year ago doesn’t make this game a letdown.”
The Rams offense this season was so potent, it led the state in offensive yardage. However, the team did have one area where Collins thought they could have done much better—red zone offense. Collins said his team had problems inside the 20-yard line.
“We had the most yards on offense, yet we didn’t lead in scoring,” Collins said. “There were games where it cost us. We would have been in the playoffs if we beat San Mateo, who we lost to by three. Four times that game we were inside their 15-yard line but didn’t come away with points.”
The players are working hard to make sure the Rams end their season on the right note.
“It was a rough loss. There were a bunch of situations in that game where we could have went up, but some things happened like mistakes on offense and defense,” said wide receiver Easop Winston. “We have been working real hard on our red zone offense, mixing things up. We need to focus hard so we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot.”
Other players have also noted that the team has improved since September.
“Early on we weren’t as disciplined,” said starting offensive lineman Jean Eason. “As the season went on we got a lot better on how we handled our assignments. With more games and time came more experience and continuity.
“It is a little disappointing. When you win it all and go to the top, you want to go back. Once you taste it once you want to taste it again,” he said. “But 7-3 isn’t that bad. Hopefully finishing 8-3, there will be a lot of positive stuff to take out of it.”
The team is loaded with talent and fans can expect a fun game. Quarterback Lavell McCullers leads an offense that scored 30 or more points in half of its games this season.
“Lavell McCullers is a straight baller,” Winston said. “We have a great connection and together we have the right timing on routes.”
Both the Rams’ offense and defense are full of players who will transfer to Division I football teams, including Robert Valencia, Jason Eason, Chaz Briggs, Deante Fortenberry, Easop Winston, Raymond Ellis and Namane Modise, who were added to the California Football Conference All-League Team with Modise being the player of the year.
“Everybody up front on our offensive and defensive lines is Division I talent. Some of our backups like Elliot Lynch got that level of talent offensive tackle Elliot Baker even got an Alabama offer,” Eason said.
It will be an especially emotional moment for the sophomores when they run out onto their home field for the last time. Beating their cross bay rival Laney would surely be a great way to cap off the season.
“It’s bittersweet playing in your last game,” Winston said. “City has helped me get to this point in my life and I have gotten great coaching here. So for me and all the other guys who are playing our last game, we just appreciate the staff for helping us get better. We definitely got to leave everything out on the field.”