The City College of San Francisco football team had two weeks to prepare for the Golden State Bowl. After the Camp fire in Butte County pushed the Bay Area’s air quality index near the 300 mark, the Rams weren’t even able to practice outside, much less play a game.
Soon after the bowl was pushed to Dec. 1, though, the air cleared. Not only could CCSF practice, but they’d be practicing for a team they’d beaten soundly, 49-16, earlier in the season: Modesto College.
On Saturday, the Rams, beat up and depleted, with 13 starters either sitting out or slowed by injury, fell in a lackluster finale, 28-20, to the Pirates, finishing a once-promising season at 7-4.
“We started off real, real slow and played a lot of guys who never started a college football game before because of injuries,” said head coach Jimmy Collins. “It took awhile to find ourselves and we ran out of time there at the end. We didn’t play well enough to end.”
Starting running back DeShawn Collins and wide receiver Tyrese Mack both missed the game, while others like linebacker Anthony Porter and defensive end Tavai Tuitasi were limited in what they could do because of their injuries.
A bone bruise in Tuitasi’s left foot hampered his effectiveness out on the field, and without their star pass rusher the Rams were unable to bring much pressure on quarterback Jack Weaver.
“For a defensive end you need to be explosive to get to the quarterback,” Tuitasi said. “I couldn’t really do much out there with it.”
Modesto took an early lead in the first quarter after Weaver found wide receiver Jordan Porter open for a 26-yard touchdown. Weaver, a small-yet-quick quarterback who excels at avoiding the pass rush and extending plays, caused headaches for the Rams defense all afternoon.
In their matchup earlier this season, the Pirates had started Jacob Perez with little success, but with Weaver behind center, Modesto looked like a completely different team. Weaver finished the game only with modest numbers — passing for 188 yards with one touchdown and one interception — but stepped up to make big plays on key third downs.
“They ran a lot of misdirections, and put our defense in a tough situation,” Collins said.
Pirates running back Devan Bass would score the next two touchdowns for Modesto on runs of three and two yards, upping the lead to 21-0 early in the second quarter. Bass ran all over the Ram defense, finishing the game with 140 rushing yards on 22 attempts with two touchdowns.
City College would score its only points of the first half when kicker Dominic Soos nailed a 25-yard field goal midway through the second quarter. Soos was one of the team’s few bright spots, hitting both of his field goal and extra point attempts.
On offense the Rams were plagued by dropped passes. Multiple times quarterback Jack Newman got excellent protection from the offensive line, enabling him to drop back and let his wide receivers run deep routes, as he delivered on-target passes to them, only to see the ball be dropped. It wasn’t just on big-play opportunities either; Rams receivers also missed some short throws also.
“Football is about making plays, and if you don’t make them you are going to lose,” Newman said.
Down 21-3 at halftime, City College would play better in the second half. Neither team scored during the third quarter, but during the fourth the action picked back up. Minutes into the fourth, sophomore wide receiver Damani Ballard, filling in for an injured Mack, caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Newman. Starting for the first time in his final game for City College, Ballard finished with eight catches for 111 yards and a touchdown. Newman finished completing 23-for-43 for 297 yards with two touchdowns.
“I just wanted to go out, it’s my sophomore year, with the fullest of my potential,” Ballard said. “Just give it all I have, that is all I wanted to do.”
Modesto would widen their lead to 28-10 after a 13-yard touchdown run by running back Darus Nelson, but the Rams would respond with their own score less then two minutes later, as Newman found freshman receiver Tyrese Johnson wide open on blown coverage for a 33-yard touchdown to narrow the score to 28-17.
City College’s ensuing onside kick attempt, though, failed. The Rams’ defense was able to get the Modesto offense off the field quickly, and get the ball back for the Ram’s offense with two minutes left. The offense was able to march down the field, but stalled out near the goal line, forcing City College to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Soos to put the score at 28-20. With 27 seconds left in the game, the Rams tried another onside kick but failed once again.
“The guys didn’t give up, so I was very happy about that,” Collins said.
With the loss the Rams finished their season at 7-4. Throughout the season, they were up-and-down, with some big blow wins but also some disappointing losses to rivals like Laney College and College of San Mateo. The team will lose some key veteran talent, like Hall, Collins, Porter, the Mack twins and Tuitasi, but since the squad was mostly freshmen, many of the starters will be back next season.
A key question for the team is whether Newman, who was a standout in his first season, will return next season or transfer at play at a higher level. With Newman back, the Rams can easily contend for coach Jimmy Collins’ second state championship.