By Patrick Cochran/Staff Writer
It was the last challenge of the regular season, and it was a must-win game for the Rams with home field advantage at stake. Up against the talented College of San Mateo team, the Rams quite possibly played their best game of the season and came out with a 42-24 victory.
Already guaranteed a playoff berth, the 9-1 Rams will have all their playoff games at the newly christened George Rush Stadium.
It was an exciting game featuring big plays by both teams.
The Rams scored the first touchdown of the game late in the first quarter when Anthony Gordon marched the offense 65 yards in 10 plays and capped off the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Antoine Porter.
San Mateo tied the game at 7-7 after a 46-yard rushing touchdown by running back Keenan Smith, who vexed the Rams defense all afternoon by gashing them for big runs and finished the game with 169 yards and one touchdown.
“We gave up some big plays early, but we adjusted to it,” head coach Jimmy Collins said. “The defense was able to bounce back and play a great game.”
The offense quickly struck back. Gordon marched the team down the field 70 yards in five plays and found Porter for another touchdown.
“ We gave up some big plays early, but we adjusted to it. The defense was able to bounce back and play a great game.”
— Coach Jimmy Collins
Both Porter and Gordon had outstanding games. Porter caught six passes for 97 yards and three touchdowns, while Gordon completed 16 out of 29 passes for 238 yards and six touchdowns.
“We came out and ran our gameplan exactly like we designed,” Porter said.
Running back Elijah Dale was instrumental in the victory running for 234 yards on 21 attempts. All afternoon Dale was able to break through the San Mateo front seven and turn what would have been a three-yard run into gains of 10 or more yards.
“What Elijah Dale did today behind the offensive line was amazing,” Collins said. “Dale’s performance running the ball enabled us to open up the field and allowed Gordon to have such a great game passing the ball.”
The Rams added a touchdown in the first half when running back Thomas Buntenbah caught an 11-yard pass from Gordon. Buntenbah had a breakout game catching three passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns.
Although the Rams had the lead at halftime 21-17, the team knew their opponent was talented and needed to do more to secure the victory. The Rams came out of the half scoring two touchdowns on long drives in the third quarter to give them a 35-17 lead.
San Mateo scored one more time on 57 yard punt return by dynamic wide receiver Ramiah Marshall. Marshall, who earlier in the game returned a kickoff 91 yards all the way to the Rams five yard line, fielded the punt, initially fumbled it but quickly picked the ball back up and cut through Rams players as he made his way to the left sideline.
Turning the corner, Marshall got into the open field and sprinted down the sideline on way to the end zone making the score 35-24.
The Rams scored one more time midway through the fourth quarter when Buntenbah caught a 70-yard pass from Gordon for a touchdown. Lining up on the left side, Buntenbah ran a post-over route down the field. Gordon flung the ball and it floated over Buntenbah’s shoulders into his hands.
Securing the ball, Buntenbah raced down the field jetting past two San Mateo defenders on his way to the house. It was the last score of the game for either team and gave the Rams the confidence boosting 42-24 victory over their talented rival.
Buntenbah was very excited about his big game.
“I hadn’t scored all season. It feels so great to come up big for the team,” Buntenbah said. “My last touchdown helped seal the win. After I caught the ball I was like they aren’t going to catch me. I got to put this away.”
With home-field advantage secured, the Rams can now focus on their ultimate goal: winning the state championship.
“It was a great team win, every week we got better and better. But we still have a long way to go,” Collins said. “We accomplished one of our preseason goals, beat San Mateo, but we still have other things we want to accomplish; win the Nor-Cal Championship, a state championship and hopefully a national championship.”
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