Sophomore QB tosses 2 TDs, runs for 2 TDs in 39-32 win.
GILROY – When sophomore quarterback Ajene Palmer was watching college football Saturday, he noticed that all the players wearing jersey #1 were having big games on the gridiron. Palmer – who wears #1 for the Gavilan College football team – hoped the trend would continue into his Saturday night game against Monterey Peninsula College.
On the sophomore quarterback’s first pass attempt, Palmer connected with receiver Brandon Almaguer for a 73-yard touchdown – which put the Rams ahead early, 7-6.
“Seriously, I was watching TV today and all the #1 people in college were making plays so I was like it’s going to be a good day,” Palmer said. “It didn’t hurt to start with the 73-yard TD pass, but everybody else contributed. I like to spread the ball around, make sure everyone is involved in the offense.”
Palmer spread the wealth – finishing 18-of-34 for 316 passing yards and two touchdown tosses while connecting with eight different receivers. Plus, the versatile quarterback also had 10 carries for 35 yards and two rushing touchdowns to account for every Rams’ TD in their 39-32 home win over Monterey Peninsula.
“It started out with my offensive line. Without my offensive line, I wouldn’t have done anything,” Palmer said. “And then receivers were making the catches. Everything just panned out. I just went with it.”
Almaguer led all Rams’ receivers with six catches for 161 yards and a touchdown, while freshman tight end Will Lawrence, a GHS graduate, made four grabs for 63 yards, and freshman receiver Harley May pulled in three receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown.
“Everybody was wide open,” Palmer said. “The offensive line, they smashed everybody. Without them, I wouldn’t have got half the stuff.”
Freshman place-kicker Jorge Garcia – a Gilroy High alum – also helped the cause with four field goals of 25, 24, 30, and 23 yards.
On the ground, sophomore tailback Danny Gallo – another former Gilroy High gridmen – pounded out 86 yards on 18 carries.
“Extremely huge win, especially after last week we didn’t even show up to play really,” said Palmer, whose squad rebounded fully from last week’s 33-6 loss to Hartnell. “We came out kind of flat. This week we came in focused. We’re going to take it to Cabrillo next week and see you at a bowl game.”
The Rams (2-1 in Coast Conference, 4-5 overall) hit the road for a Saturday night match-up against Cabrillo College at 7 p.m.
“One down, one to go,” Palmer said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Monterey Peninsula kept pace with Gavilan in the early going – taking a 14-10 lead into the second quarter. But a six-yard TD run by Palmer quickly gave the Rams a 17-14 advantage that was extended to 23-14 following a three-yard hook-up from Palmer to May. Before the half, the teams would exchange field goals to give Gavilan a 26-17 lead at the break.
In the second half, Gavilan turned to Garcia for two more field goals to stretch the gap to 32-17 going into the final quarter. Then, Palmer took to the ground for a 21-yard touchdown scamper to put the Rams ahead 39-17 with 9:56 remaining.
But Monterey Peninsula (0-3 in conference, 0-9 overall) was not ready to pack it in yet – mounting a quick-strike 80-yard TD drive that took only 1:08 off the clock and closed the margin to 39-26.
When the Gavilan offense took the field on its next possession, Palmer was not behind center anymore. Instead, back-up quarterback Russell Shafer got the call. But the drive ended prematurely on halfback A.J. Garcia’s fumble – which was recovered by Monterey Peninsula at its own 44-yard line.
Four plays later, Monterey Peninsula quarterback Anthony Garnett followed up a 39-yard completion with a 1-yard TD run. All of a sudden, the Rams’ lead was dwindled to seven points with 5:05 left.
“We shouldn’t have let them back at all,” said Palmer, who returned for the Rams’ next offensive possession.
The game was still not over yet – especially after a botched hold on another Garcia field goal attempt turned the ball back to Monterey Peninsula with 1:55 on the clock. But the Gavilan defense did its part – stalling the possible game-tying drive at midfield to secure the 39-32 victory.
“It’s a total team thing from me to the offensive line to the running backs, receivers, defensive people, and coaches,” Palmer said. “It was just a whole team effort from the get-go. We had a good week of practice unlike last week. We just came out and executed everything we learned all week.”