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Morgan Hill
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December 9, 2023

Rams pack punch in opener

Gavilan off to a strong start after making up for 49-7 loss last
The Gavilan Rams made a solid start toward Coast Conference respectability and bowl consideration Saturday night with a 28-14 handling of the Merced College Blue Devils at Mustang Stadium.

The Blue Devils, owners of a 49-7 victory over Gavilan in last season’s opener, found that their offense could not run the football – at all. Third-string quarterback Brian Saavedra was able to throw two touchdown passes, but the inability of the visitors to dent the Gavilan defensive front spelled doom for the Blue Devils.

“The key was that their defensive line physically beat our offensive line,” coach Blue Devil coach Tony Lewis said of his club’s one rush for more than six yards among 25 attempts.

Merced managed a 10-yard run late in the first half on a third-and-20 play, leading to one of seven Merced punts.

“We thought we could run the ball on them,” Lewis said . “They didn’t allow us to do that.”

Lewis, in his 15th year at the Blue Devils helm, noted that his offense built some continuity by passing, but turnovers and penalties disrupted potential drives.

The three holding penalties against Merced were the result of constant pressure up front from the Gavilan defensive line. When the Rams were not able to get to Saavedra, either a holding penalty or a hurried throw ruffled the Merced offense.

T. J. Monroe intercepted two Saavedra tosses in the fourth quarter when the Rams were protecting a 28-7 lead. Gavilan posted five sacks and had three other tackles for negative yardage. Roy Sims, Brian Hernandez, Ryan Reynaud and Josh Visperas broke through to sack Saavedra.

“It got to the point where we just played base (defense) and went big-on-big,” said coach John Lango of the defensive showing. “That performance was without two starting linebackers, Bradley Niles and Gustavo Valdovinos, both out with injuries.”

Gavilan powered to a 346-162 edge in total offense and a 22-10 advantage in first downs, punting just three times.

As much as the Gavilan defense was inspired by the front line pressure keyed by Sims, the Monroe picks and the four deflections of Merced passes by cornerback J.R. Richmond, the offense fed off the nine pass receptions for 108 yards and one touchdown by Ted Mason.

Patrick Ames scored a two-yard touchdown on a sneak with 2:47 left in the first half for a 14-7 lead. He finished with 141 yards on a 13-for-21 night.

El Ray Henry covered 111 yards in just 18 carries, including two touchdown jaunts. The freshman out of Yerba Buena completed a 13-play drive over 80 yards in the first quarter with a seven-yard spin through left guard with 3:44 left for a 7-0 Ram lead.

The Blue Devils pulled even when Saavedra’s seven-yard pass deflected off a Gavilan defender and was clutched in the endzone by tight end Miguel Millan. The play was set up by a 49-yard Saavedra strike to Jimmy Howard as the first quarter elapsed.

Gavilan ended any Merced hopes of a victory by scoring on the first two possessions of the second half. A 20-yard romp by Henry pushed Gavilan into Blue Devil territory three plays into the third quarter.

On the next play, Ames and Henry missed each other on the initial hand-off. Ames was able to tuck the ball into Henry’s arms and the halfback turned the broken play into a 41-yard touchdown dash.

“It was a broken play, but I came back for the ball, then spun and my linemen made a big hole,” Henry said of the play that made it 21-7.

Running back Rodney Cozine, who finished with 26 yards on six carries, ignited the next Gavilan series with a 10-yard rush into Merced territory.

Ames tosses of 11 and 12 yards to Mason put Gavilan at the Merced seven. Ames then threaded a pass through a defender’s outstetched hands and into the stomach of Mason for the final Ram six-pointer. A.J. Garbin completed a 4-for-4 PAT effort with 7:09 left in the quarter.

Saavedra completed the scoring with a 48-yard TD pass to wide-out Eddie Olivarez with 2:08 left to play.

Saavedra was called on to play because starter Leland Hutton was out because of an eligibility issue and back-up Gerlad Johnson was injured in a scrimmage last week.

Sophomore tight end Will Lawrence covered 30 yards with three catches.

Freshman quarterback Nick Buzzetta rushed for 21 yards on four carries in addition to one seven-yard pass completion.

Although the Rams were whistled for 12 penalties worth 82 yards, the balanced offensive attack kept several scoring drives alive.

The Rams continue the six-game portion of the pre-conference schedule with a 1 p.m. date with the College of Marin Saturday in Kentfield.

Bob Burch
Bob Burch
A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.

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