Shasta College running back Matt McCree ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns in the 40-20 loss to West Hills Saturday at Yuba College in Marysville. (Photo by Mike Daly).
MARYSVILLE – The Knights aren’t trying to make excuses for starting late due to the Carr Fire. But they are still having a tough time figuring out their identity this season.
Shasta College dropped a 40-20 contest to West Hills Coalinga Saturday at Yuba College in Marysville in what was technically its home opener. The game had to be moved because of the poor air quality from the Delta Fire in northern Shasta County.
Aside from the misfortune of starting eight days later than the rest of the JUCO teams in California, five turnovers and the inability to tackle didn’t help the Knights. West Hills totaled 543 yards of offense.
“We made some horrible mistakes by a team that’s still really young and we’re not a good enough football team yet to overcome those type of mistakes,” Shasta College head coach Craig Thompson said.
Shasta running back Kenio Mike Jr fumbled the ball on the opening play from scrimmage, leading to a West Hills touchdown four plays later. Shasta turned the ball over on three of its four four possessions and had their other drive stall on downs after reaching the red zone.
West Hills (2-0) capitalized on those mistakes, scoring on a 46-yard deep pass and a 2-yard run from Kahlil Harshaw to lead 20-0.
“I think we got tired; it was hot and we let that go to our head and didn’t play like we know we can,” Shasta sophomore linebacker Zach Thompson said. “I don’t care if the offense turns it over every series, it’s our job to not let them score no matter.”
Starting quarterback William James was replaced by Hokulani Wickard in the second quarter, who quickly ignited the Knight offense with back-to-back pass plays that went for 76 yards and got Shasta inside the 10. Matt McCree capped the drive two plays later on a 2-yard run and the Knights carried over the momentum into the third quarter. McCree took a handoff and bounced it outside for a 12-yard scoring run to trail 20-13.
The Knights had success on the ground with McCree running for 121 yards and 14 attempts and Mike Jr ran for 96 yards on 15 attempts. Wickard ended the game 13 for 22 with 159 yards, one TD and 2 INT.
“We’re still trying to find our place right now,” McCree said. “Every game we start to get it clicking but have to go at it harder in practice and do everything better.”
The two teams traded touchdowns on the ensuing possessions. West Hills’ Dwan James pin-balled off four tacklers en route to a 19-yard touchdown and Shasta’s Johnny Iniguez turned a short catch into a 24-yard score to keep it a six-point game.
With momentum following the score, Shasta forced a punt and drove quickly into West Hill territory thanks to a 29-yard run from Mike Jr. But the Knights never got closer than the Falcons’ 34, turning it over on downs, deflating the “home” sideline.
“It’s all about execution,” McCree said. “We get down to the 20- or 30-yard line and we don’t execute. We have to work on ourselves and we’ll get it down.”
West Hills scored on a 32-yard run up the middle from Harshaw and then intercepted Wickard on Shasta’s 4-yard line after the Knights hardly avoided a safety on the kickoff return. Dwan James punched it in from 1-yard out to pull away with a 40-20 victory.
Patrick Blake’s six catches (for 32 yards) led the Knights while Karnell Collier caught three passes for 70 yards. Wickard, in a backup role, completed 13 of 22 passes for 159 yards, a TD and a two interceptions. Williams James was 4 for 9 for 25 yards. Shasta’s leading tackler was Hunter Margain with 10 tackles, one for a loss. Cole Parker and Logan German were next with six tackles a piece. Torren Calhoun had a pair of sacks for Shasta.
Shasta opens the year 0-2 for the second straight season but can right the ship at home next week against Santa Rosa, which beat NorCal Conference foe and rival Butte 28-23 Saturday.