Rams win, but playoff hopes are dashed

Quarterback Lavell McCullers breaks a tackle during Saturday's win against Contra Costa College (Photo by Kyle Honea/The Guardsman)

By Eddie Martinez Jr.

Special To The Guardsman

As a long season of triumphs and defeats came to an end, two division rivals shared one common goal on Nov. 12: Leave Comet Stadium with a win. Head Coach Jimmy Collins and the visiting Rams would be the ones to do so, and in comeback fashion. The game against the Contra Costa Comets ended with the scoreboard showing 19-14, and was one that was dictated by the defense—which seemed to serve as one of the few traits both teams had in common.

Starting quarterback Lavell McCullers would end the day as City College’s leading passer to no surprise, finishing 8 of 16 for 121 yards and with a lone touchdown pass. Despite McCullers’ excellence, it’s hard to undermine the Rams’ fourth quarter hero Zach Masoli, who finished his only drive 7 of 9 for 68 yards and a touchdown through the air.

The two quarterbacks would be accompanied by Namane Modise in a rushing attack that seemed to hit a wall due to the dominance of each side’s defense. Modise still man

aged to finish the day as the Rams’ leading rusher, notching 60 yards on 13 carries, along with contributing in the passing game.

Due to the high volume of offensive highlight plays each team seemed to produce on a weekly basis, most thought this would be a game led by QBs and other skill players, but this game told a different story. From as early as the first quarter, it looked as though this would be a tale of the kickers.

Quarterback Lavell McCullers breaks a tackle during Saturday's win against Contra Costa College (Photo by Kyle Honea/The Guardsman)
Quarterback Lavell McCullers breaks a tackle during Saturday’s win against Contra Costa College (Photo by Kyle Honea/The Guardsman)

This proved true as Leonardo Hodis put the first points on the board with a 22-yard field goal and 1 minute, 34 seconds left in the first quarter. The points came after a several defensive stops by each team and a missed field goal by the Comets the drive before.

After a short three-and-out by the Comets, the Rams got the ball back to start the second quarter, but continued to be plagued by the stifling Comets defense. The offense did little with the ball, leading to an eventual punt and the Comet’s first offensive possession of the second quarter.

Comets QB Cameron Burston marched down the field with a ground game that seemed unstoppable, and was for that drive as they ended with a Burston 7-yard touchdown run.

The score was 3-7 and the Rams knew they needed to respond. They turned to McCullers who led a 9-play, 43-yard drive that culminated in Hodis’ second field goal of the day coming from 32-yards out. After a few more scoreless drives, the Comets’ 6-7 lead became one they would carry into the break, mostly due to their inability to capitalize on offense.

City’s defense stepped up and kept the Comets in check—a key reason this game wasn’t the high scoring affair many expected. By the halfway mark, City College’s secondary was responsible for holding Burston to season-lows in almost every passing category available. He finished 5 for 10, passing for 30 yards and no touchdowns. His completion percentage and lack of yards through the air was something the Rams took pride in, and rightly so.

When asked what the preparation process was going into the game, defensive back Vince Camp reassured not much had changed.

“The preparation process was the usual. We watched tons of film all week up until gameday. Coaches put some new coverages in for the defense to catch them off guard… We also knew we had to win this game for many reasons,” Camp said.

Modise made sure to open the second half with a bang, doing so on the fourth play of the third quarter with a 38-yard scamper up the middle.

Despite the spurt of offensive fireworks, the game continued to be decided by defensive play. The Rams once again did little with ball, resulting in a missed 37-yarder by Hodis. After another stop by the defense, the quest for success on the point-scoring side of the ball continued.

McCullers would eventually toss an 18-yard touchdown pass to wideout Kevin Shaa with 3 minutes, 21 seconds left in the third. This would bring a 6-play, 58-yard drive to an end that saw the majority of yardage come on a 46-yard chunk play from McCullers to Lorenz Logwood.

With a 13-7 lead, the Rams knew this would be the time to play like they had been all day—dominantly. Unfortunately, they were plagued by the ground-based duo of Burston and running back Harris Ross. With a little over three minutes left in the third, the two went on a running spree, ending in a 9-play, 69-yard drive with no pass completions, and Burston’s second touchdown run of the day.

After scoreless possessions by both teams, one including a play that saw McCullers fumble and would keep him out of the rest of the game, in comes Rams backup quarterback Zach Masoli. The inexperienced signal called would take the offensive reins, orchestrating a furious 14-play, 86-yard drive that brought the game to a conclusion with a winning touchdown pass to wideout Jaylend Jones with 2 minutes, 12 seconds left in the final quarter. The drive featured multiple 10-plus-yard passes to star wideout Easop Winston, who contributed heavily to the game-winning offensive push.

The Comets’ final drive would inevitably fall short thanks to a monster sack by defensive tackle Maka Tameilau on third down. The next play would be an incompletion, turning the ball over on downs. The Rams would end the regular season with a win.

But despite their efforts, they missed the 2016 California Community College Athletics Association playoffs by a narrow margin. In order to see a postseason push, the Rams’ win needed to been paired with a San Mateo loss, and that didn’t happen.

Regardless, City College looks to build off their victory, heading into a Week-1 rematch against the Laney Eagles in the San Francisco Community College Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 12 p.m.