Before Saturday night’s football contest between host Gavilan
College and De Anza College, no one seemed to know how to turn the
lights on at Andy Hardin Field.
By JOHN REID
HOLLISTER – Before Saturday night’s football contest between host Gavilan College and De Anza College, no one seemed to know how to turn the lights on at Andy Hardin Field. The game was delayed about a half hour until the lights came on for good.
The Rams then took nearly four quarters of football before officially turning the lights out on the Dons – winning by a 21-14 score to open up the Coast Conference season 1-0. The win also pushed the Rams’ overall record to 3-4.
Sophomore receiver Brandon Almaguer – a San Benito High alum – returned home to record the game-wining TD. Almaguer, who is receiving some Division I interest, caught a cross over the middle from Rams’ quarterback Ajene Palmer and went the rest of the way to complete a 49-yard score with 1:13 left in the game.
Almaguer, a do-all player who also punts and placekicks, had a 58-yard TD reception with 8:05 left in the third quarter to put the Rams down by a touchdown at 14-7. Palmer rolled to his right and threw it up high to Almaguer – who juggled it in the end zone before hauling it in.
“That pass reminded me of the Hail Mary play when we beat Marin,” said Almaguer, who caught a last-second touchdown pass for the Rams’ ‘Miracle over Marin’ win on Sep. 21. “This was a good win and, hopefully, will get us going.”
Sophomore back Danny Gallo knotted the score at 14-all when he went over left guard from six yards out at the 2:41 mark of the third. Gallo, a little scatback out of Gilroy, gave the Rams a second-half spark and ended up with 80 yards rushing.
The Dons (2-5, 0-1) were hindered by the loss of wideout Jay Reinman to an injury. Reinman burnt the Rams secondary for touchdown receptions of 32 and 60 yards as Dons quarterback J..P. Melert threaded the needle beautifully.
Reinman sprained an ankle at one point in the game, then had a big gainer on a double-reverse to start the fourth quarter. However, he got kicked on the shin on the tackle and did not return.
The Dons were also hurt by an outlandish 23 penalties, while the Rams committed just four. One penalty in particular led to some serious disgruntlement of the officiating crew on the Dons’ sideline. Just 25 seconds before Almaguer’s game-winner, the Dons punted the ball away. Rams’ return man Kyle Thomas charged upfield to his left to try to field the punt. Thomas fumbled the ball and the Dons recovered.
The fumble recovery, however, was taken away due to a halo infringement by the Dons punt coverage team.
“Kyle told me that the only reason he didn’t catch the ball was because the guy ran into him,” Rams’ head coach John Lango said.
Lango was satisfied with his defensive unit – which shut down Dons’ star running back Ben Gamble.
“That was a good running back we stopped tonight,” Lango said. “It was a team effort. The whole defense did great and Palmer played real well.”
On one sequence late in the fourth period, Rams 5-foot-8, 310-pound defensive tackle William Vaana, a legitimate block of wood, slammed Dons running back Tyrell Johnson to the turf for a loss of five yards. On the next play, former Baler Paul Bianchi sacked Dons backup quarterback Rod Banks for a 16-yard loss. Then Bianchi did the trick again, sacking Banks for minus-10 yards. Bianchi had some help from the Rams front seven as Banks, who just came into the game, wondered what the haps was.
“All I saw were four heads coming at me,” said Banks when he got the De Anza sideline. “That’s all I saw.”
Playing well defensively for the Rams were linebackers Jeff Stanley, Willie Gamboa and A.J. Lee, and defensive backs Moses Aguilar and J.R. Richmond.
Next up for the Rams is a road trip to Salinas to play Hartnell College this Saturday at 7 p.m.