COALINGA — It usually takes some time early in the year for an offense to catch up and rise to the level of the defense.
For the Knights, one week was long enough.
No. 25 Shasta College had its way with West Hills College Coalinga on Saturday, racking up 444 total yards en route to a 30-14 road victory in the Sierra Pacific Industries College Game of the Week.
Quarterback Hoku-Lani Wickard completed 21-of-28 passes for 341 yards as the Knights improve to 2-0 to start the year. Those 21 completions went to nine different receivers with freshman James Lee coming away with a team-best four catches for 123 yards and a touchdown.
“That’s balance for us, it’s not just about run and pass but threat distribution is important for us to have success,” coach Bryon Hamilton said.
Hamilton is the first Knights coach to start 2-0 in their first year as the head coach of the program.
Shasta’s offensive line opened up running lanes for Matt McCree and Vinny Smith and kept a clean pocket for Wickard, who had plenty of time to find his receivers. Despite putting up 30 points and moving the ball consistently, there were still plenty of missed opportunities that could have put the Knights’ final tally into the 50s.
Shasta turned the ball over four times in the game, three of which came in the red zone and the fourth on a deep pass going into the end zone.
“We left a lot on the table again but it shows we’re not reaching our ceiling yet,” Hamilton said. “We have a chance to be better and have to be better in the red zone.”
Wickard threw an interception in the end zone on the game’s opening drive, but settled down from there as the Knights scored on their next three first-half possessions. Matthew Ramirez nailed a 30-yard field goal and McCree scored on runs of 4 and 6 yards. Smith added a 1-yard touchdown run to cap an 84-yard scoring drive before half to go up 23-7 at the break.
McCree finished with 97 rushing yards on 17 attempts and caught two passes for 25 yards while Smith finished with 15 rushing yards on 10 carries.
The offensive rhythm also allowed the defense to settle in. The Knights allowed their first touchdown of the season in the second quarter on a 5-yard run by Dwan James. That drive was aided by four defensive penalties that set up the Falcons. The only other touchdown allowed by the defense came midway through the fourth quarter with reserves seeing the field as West Hills cut the deficit to 16 with a 30-yard scoring strike in the back of the end zone from Tristan Eames to Jonathan Murphy.
Before that 80-yard drive, Shasta’s defense had allowed only 71 yards in the second half on four possessions. Shasta allowed the only one red zone trip in West Hills’ 11 possessions.
“Our defense is flying around, doing a nice job stopping the run game,” Hamilton said. “We got an interception back there, a chance at a couple more. That’s what you ask for.”
Shasta’s final touchdown came on a 46-yard bomb from Wickard to Lee midway through the third to go up 30-7. West Hills scored with 5:27 left in the game and was threatening to make it a one-score contest. But freshman safety Joe Merkel came up with a game-sealing interception, his first of the year.
Shasta’s defense added three sacks with 1.5 by Cole Parker, one from Torren Calhoun-Ray and a 0.5 sack by Payton Harrell.
Kentrell Petite caught five passes for 61 yards while Ivan Smith had three receptions for 46 yards and Carson Marx hauled in three passes for 46 yards.
Tavian Wallace paced Shasta with seven tackles followed by five each from Merkel, Garrison Roach and Andermadson Pierre.
Shasta goes on the road next week to winless Santa Rosa, which fell 45-13 at Butte College on Saturday.
Week 2 scores — NorCal Conference
#25 Shasta 30, West Hills 14
#6 American River 15, #10 Laney 10
#3 Butte 45, Santa Rosa 13
#5 Modesto 50, #22 Sierra 20
Fresno City 49, Siskiyous 0
Diablo Valley 20, Feather River 17
|Pos||Team||OVR W||OVR L||OVR Pct||W||L||Pct||PF||PA||Net Pts||Streak|
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