The Guardsman Online
RAMS WIN NORCAL, HEADING FOR STATE
The Rams defense overpowered the high-scoring offense of the Sierra College Wolverines (9-2, 5-1) for a 24-10 victory in the Hawaiian Punch Community College Bowl before a sold-out crowd at Rams Stadium on Saturday Dec. 1.
They won their fifth consecutive NorCal championship and earned a spot in the state championship.
“We decided to get in the game and see how they worked defensively, make decisions based on the perception of what they’re doing,” said Rams coach George Rush before the game.
The Rams (10-1, 6-0) coughed up the ball three times in the first half, and freshman quarterback Jeremiah Masoli looked unsettled and tentative in the pocket. The Wolverines pass-rush harried Masoli, and their secondary clamped down on the Rams receivers.
Masoli would later settle down and have a championship performance, completing 25 of 39 passes for 275 yards for two touchdowns and oneinterception; he ran the ball seven times for 42 yards and one rushing touchdown. Sophomore wide receiver Andre Wells caught seven passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. The Rams had 459 total offensive yards.
The Rams defensive front seven was reinforced by the shutdown play of the secondary. The defensive backs and safeties played exceptionally well, allowing the Wolverines offense only 10 points.
Defensive lineman Donald Phelps had three sacks in the game, and linebacker Gerald Williams had five tackles as both helped motivate the defense to stop the Wolverines during crucial third-down plays during the second half.
“We pride ourselves on playing hard, going 100 percent,” defensive lineman Donald Phelps said. “We all worked hard. So in the game it was just full motor. Between our long break between our last game and the championship game, we were able to go back and work on the mechanics of the game during practice.”
On the second play from scrimmage, the Wolverines freshman running back Lamon Muldrow found a big gap in the Rams offensive line and charged downfield 80 yards before being collared by Rams cornerback Dejon Gomes at the Rams 23-yard line. The run would lead to the first three points of the game, after the Rams played tough red-zone defense, sacking Wolverines quarterback Kevin Will on a third-and-eight play.
“They’re the consistently most efficient team we’ve played. They don’t do a lot of things, but what they do they do well,” Rush said.
Sophomore running back Austin Curran ran the ball to the 9-yard line after blazing 20 yards through Wolverines linebackers, and set up a first-and-goal. He would run the ball 23 times for 130 total yards. After a holding penalty, Masoli threw a 19-yard TD pass giving the Rams a 7-3 lead with 1:26 left in the first quarter.
Masoli, under pressure, was forced to scramble on most possessions in the first half and fumbled the ball twice. The Wolverines brought physical red-zone defense to the game as well, and held a high-powered Rams offense to a 37-yard field goal in the second quarter. The Rams turned the ball over an uncharacteristic three times in the first half. Rush wanted the team to focus on special teams, not giving the Wolverines a short field and forcing – not committing – turnovers.
“The only thing we did different in the second half,” Rush said, “was not turning the ball over. The defense did a great job stopping their running game and their big wide receiver wasn’t a factor. They are a team used to running over people, but we shut down all their weapons.”
At halftime, the teams trudged back to the locker rooms deadlocked 10-10.
After a scoreless third quarter, Masoli and company capped a 98-yard drive with an 11-yard TD pass to Adrian Hilburn with 11:52 left in the game. The Rams led 17-10.
The Wolverines were visibly exhausted late in the game. The Rams defense tired the effectiveness of the their offense and held the Wolverines to just 131 total yards in the second half, shutting down the Wolverines two most effective weapons: running back Lamon Muldrow and quarterback Kevin Will. After two debilitating penalties for 20 yards, Rams defensive end Corey Dehl came quick off a left-side blitz and sacked Will, who then fumbled the ball. The Rams recovered on the 45-yard line.
With 1:23 left in the game and faced with a fourth-and-one conversion, Masoli broke through the Wolverines defensive line and scrambled 23 yards for the final touchdown.
The Rams fans erupted with cheers, and the players surrounded Rush and began jumping up and down in celebration.
“We’re going to have to dance with the girl we brought to the dance,” Rush said, referring to Mt. San Antonio, a team they have not played before. “We’re not going to do anything tricky. The team has worked hard to make it all the way to the State Championship and we’ll rely on that hard work. We’ve just got to play hard. We’ve got a good group of guys who like each other.”
JEREMIAH MASOLI'S MOTIVATION MOVES RAMS TOWARD VICTORY
BY PAUL WERTHEIM
Freshman quarterback Jeremiah Masoli had to overcome doubt and disappointment after a loss to Fresno City College early in the season when he threw three interceptions, but he used the lessons from that game to lead his squad to a 7-0 run up to the Hawaiian Punch Community College Bowl.
“The loss gave me great motivation to learn from my mistakes,” Masoli said. “That game was a big turning point for our offense.”
Masoli is an impressive figure, standing 6-feet tall and built like a running back. This season he tallied big numbers, completing 62 percent of his passes and throwing for 3,065 total yards and 26 touchdowns. He also rushed 98 times for 383 yards and 10 touchdowns, an average of three-and-a-half touchdowns a game, which earned him the honor of NorCal Conference offensive player of the year.
“He’s a very accomplished athlete,” Rams coach George Rush said.
Originally from San Francisco’s Bayview District, Masoli moved to San Mateo and played quarterback for Junipero Serra High School. He then moved to Hawaii to play for St. Louis High School. The Rams football program scouted him early.
“I practiced here when I was in high school and went around with the Rams in the summer time,” he said.
He generously admits that his success is due in great part to the Rams sophomore receiver corps: Andre Wells, Deric Davis, Carlton Sanders and Adrian Hillburn.
“We have four great wide receivers,” he said. “All of them are like my best friends. We hang out together outside of college.”
Masoli looks forward to playing for the Rams next season. Undecided about his major, he finds Astronomy and Business as subjects of interest. He is also an avid 49ers fan and admits with a smile “we need to do everything they are not doing.”
Playing in his first Hawaiian Punch Bowl on Saturday, Masoli had an impressive day. He led the Rams to 459 total yards, completing 64 percent of his passes and throwing two touchdowns and rushing for one, as the Rams won the NorCal championship. The team goes down to Fresno to play for the State Championship against SoCal champions Mt. San Antonio.
“To see everyone jumping up and down celebrating was awesome,” Masoli said. “We want to make our mark and get a 2007 state championship. The win Saturday gave us a great feeling of joy and accomplishment.”