Another week, another stout defensive performance for the Knights.
Add in a couple of early scores through the air and No. 15 Shasta College stayed unbeaten by topping No. 23 College of the Sequoias 20-7 Saturday at Memorial Stadium in the Sierra Pacific Industries College Game of the Week.
Shasta College (5-0) heads into its bye week unbeaten, the fourth time the Knights have started the year with five straight wins in program history. It wasn’t as smooth as they wanted, losing quarterback Hoku-Lani Wickard to concussion-like symptoms in the third quarter. By then the Knights were up 17-0 and had the benefit of calling a conservative game, leaning on running backs Matt McCree and Vinny Smith to put the game away.
“We were on pace to put up a good number and have a good night but that changes with Hoke going down with how we attack the defense and take some shots,” said Shasta College head coach Bryon Hamilton.
Torren Calhoun-Ray had a career day with four of the Knights’ five sacks to lead the defense, which allowed 232 total yards — 64 rushing — and got two takeaways with a Tavian Wallace fumble recovery and an Adonis Thomas interception. The Knights have allowed only 47 points through five games — the second best mark in the state.
“They were talking right before the game about how we were slow and all types and stuff and their coach said they had the best D-line in the state so we had to show them something,” Calhoun-Ray said.
Thomas recovered a first quarter fumble which gave Shasta favorable field position and Wickard went over the top to Brandon Morris on the next play for a 29-yard score.
Sequoias (3-2) drove down to the Shasta 5 on the ensuing drive but Calhoun-Ray’s sack on third down backed the Giants up for a more difficult 33-yard field goal attempt. The kick was wide and the Knights escaped without any damage done. The end of Sequoias’ drive was the only three plays the Giants ran inside the Shasta 20 yard line in the game.
Shasta took a two-score lead midway through the second period with Wickard orchestrating a 13-play drive capped by another hookup between him and Morris. He found the Redlands native wide open in the right corner of the end zone for a 14-0 lead. Injuries to receivers Ivan Smith and Kentrell Petite allowed Morris to see significant playing time and the freshman took full advantage, finishing with four catches for 48 yards.
“All through the week we knew we were going to get some over the tops,” Morris said. “I kept telling coach we’re going to get them over the top…so when they called my number I just made the play.”
The Knights tacked on a Matthew Ramirez 21-yard field goal on the last play of the half. Shasta got the ball with 55 seconds left and marched inside the Giants’ 5 but couldn’t capitalize in the red zone to go up 17-0 at half.
The only other time Sequoias threatened in the game was late in the third quarter. The Giants converted their only third down of the game on a 25-yard pass and followed it up with a 41-yard scoring strike the next play to cut into the lead 17-7.
Shasta answered with Garrison Roach returning the pooch kick into Sequoias territory and James Lee’s 24-yard sweep got the Knights close enough for a 24-yard Ramirez field goal for a 20-7 advantage with 1:28 left in the third.
Sequoias completed only one of the next 10 passes and only picked up one first down on its final three possessions. Shasta milked the clock the ball the final 6:14 to put the game away, handing it off to Smith five times and McCree three times before kneeling in victory formation.
With the defense shutting opponents down, the offense hasn’t been tasked with high-scoring affairs. But that’s more than OK for Hamilton.
“When you have a defense like that you don’t have to match scores,” Hamilton said. “So you start playing field position, eating clock and playing to the strength of the team and we’re doing a good job at that. I still feel we’re capable of putting up points if necessary.”
Wickard completed 13-of-24 passing for 161 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while Lee hauled in seven catches for 82 yards and added another 56 rushing on three carries. Smith rushed 13 times for 33 yards and McCree added 20 rushing yards on 10 carries and a pair of catches for 29 yards.
Shasta’s starting defensive line had the top three tacklers in the game with Rashard Budd (8 tackles), Kelsall (6) and Calhoun-Ray (5). The other starter Cole Parker had four tackles.
Shasta gets two weeks to rest and prepare for a road game at Sierra College in Rocklin Oct. 20 to begin NorCal Conference play.
“The worst feeling is going on a bye week with a loss because you have the sour taste in your mouth,” Morris said. “The whole team knew we had to go into the bye week 5-0, that’s going to make us chill out a little bit but have to focus on the road ahead and that’s going to be a tough road.”
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