The Gavilan College Rams broke open an even Coast Conference
football opener with De Anza by exceptional special teams play in
the second half to highlight a 27-13 victory on the Dons
’ home turf.
Cupertino – The Gavilan College Rams broke open an even Coast Conference football opener with De Anza by exceptional special teams play in the second half to highlight a 27-13 victory on the Dons’ home turf.
The Rams took a strong first step toward repeating as the conference kingpin by grabbing a 13-0 halftime lead and holding on to surprise the 2003 co-champions for the second straight season.
In other conference openers, Hartnell blanked San Jose City 30-0 and Monterey Peninsula outlasted Cabrillo 31-21.
This weekend, Gavilan plays rival Hartnell in Saturday night’s Homecoming Game at Hollister’s Andy Hardin Field.
Special teams play set the tone for the Rams’ victory on Saturday, lifting the club to 4-2 overall.
Gavilan coach John Lango praised the strong play from the special teams units. “Their play was a great plus for us. At the start of the game, I thought we were flat and didn’t play particularly well in that we still missed some tackles and looked a little lethargic. It’s a great win though. We shut down their running game (71 yards on 36 tries) and got them out of their game. Our defensive ends, Korey Gray and Jason Lane, played very well.”
Effective punting, a tempo-changing punt return, two blocked punts and one kickoff into the endzone were vital to the Rams’ success. De Anza played on even terms with the Rams.
Each team netted 15 first downs and Gavilan managing just a 222-197 edge in total offense. The kicking game portion of play sided strongly with the Rams.
“We thought their weakness was special teams,” said losing coach Mike Mitchell. “On the first punt return, we had three guys who had a chance to make a play.”
Gavilan’s Horacio Arteaga used a strong tailwind to drill the opening kickoff into the endzone. The Dons and Rams each went three-and-out on their first series, although the Rams earned the better of the exchange when Curtis Lilly’s 65-yard punt was downed at the DeAnza 4.
Five plays later, the Don punter, Chad Talley, skied an offering toward midfield. As the ball took a high bounce at the DeAnza 48, and with several Dons in the area, return specialist Tyrone Monroe timed a high bounce, pulled in the pigskin and jetted out of danger before barely stepping out of bounds while avoiding a tackler at the DeAnza seven.
Monroe’s heroics were rewarded three plays later when quarterback Will Kilday found Shane Butcher open in the right back corner with a nine-yard scoring heave with 7:26 left in the first quarter. Arteaga added the first of three successful point-after kicks for the 7-0 cushion.
Two Rams series later, the visitors made it a 10-0 game. A DeAnza personal foul on a Lilly punt kept the series alive with the ball at the Dons 40. Kilday and Live Oak High grad Steven Conner combined on a 12-yard pass play on a fourth-and-eight to move to the Dons 10. Four plays later Arteaga was true from 31 yards out with 11:10 left in the first half.
Gavilan added a field goal on its next series after stopping a fourth-down try by DeAnza on the Ram 28. The Rams covered 51 yards with three first downs, two earned by El Ray Henry runs. Arteaga’s 38-yard effort with 1:03 left completed the half’s scoring.
The Rams led its previous game 12-0 at halftime before losing to College of San Mateo. This time, the Gavilan defense was able to keep the lead for the second 30 minutes.
“The second half was more of the kind of game I expected,” Mitchell said of the span that resulted in two touchdowns for each club.
“We’ve had the ability to let ourselves get into trouble early,” Mitchell added. “Our defense played reasonably well. We’ve been averaging 28 points on offense but this time we just didn’t play well. Gavilan did play well. That’s the best Gavilan team I’ve faced in my time (five seasons) here.”
De Anza’s best chance at an upset came in the first seven minutes of the third quarter. The Dons went 35 yards in six plays to a touchdown with 10:25 left, then turned an interception of a Rhett Van De Mark pass into control at the Ram 24. DeAnza could manage just one yard in three tries, however, and a Jonathan Macciola field goal attempt from 39 yards sailed wide left with 8:07 to go in the quarter.
The Rams regained a 13-point spread at the 3:46 mark of the quarter. Kilday kept the march going with a 19-yard pass to Butcher on fourth-and-9.
Tight end Conner then made the highlight reel on a nine-yard scoring toss from Kilday, gently tapping the high toss with his right hand near the back of the endzone before securing the ball with the same one hand for the score.
Gavilan kept DeAnza in its own territory for the rest of the quarter, twice blocking punts (Gray and Adam Bearden).
The second blocked punt set up the Rams at the Dons 17. Daniel Salinas, the Live Oak product who finished with 44 needed yards in 12 carries on the afternoon, bolted for five. Kilday and Butcher then combined for the final 12 yards with a soft spiral in the back left corner of the endzone.
DeAnza completed the scoring with an eight-yard touchdown pass by second-team quarterback Mike Silva to tight end George Fielding.
Henry was limited to 45 yards on 21 assignments for the winners. Kilday finished with 162 yards on a 13-for-30 effort, including three TDs.