SALINAS – In a matchup with first place on the line, Hartnell came away with a 28-3 Coast Conference victory over the Gavilan College Rams at The Pit on the campus of Salinas High School on Saturday night.
The Rams, dropping to 2-2 in the conference with a home date opposite Cabrillo to conclude the season Saturday at 1 p.m., did not convert two opportunities inside the 1-yard stripe. On defense, Gavilan was unable to consistently stop the dual threat of Harnell’s Josh Correia’s passing and the rushing of Deandre Mann
“They (the Panthers) executed, we didn’t,” summarized Gavilan coach Spencer Gilford. “We didn’t take advantage of two first-and-goal situations at the 1-yard line. Hartnell has a good defense, so we do give them credit.
Hartnell, which can finish no worse than a tie for the conference crown, improved to 4-0 in conference play, setting up a showdown with Monterey Peninsula College next Saturday to preserve the clean record.
“Gavilan’s much improved,” said Hartnell coach Matt Collins. “We knew that going in. We’ve improved every week. In the first half, we checked to some passing plays when we saw their coverage and that helped us.”
Hartnell’s defense has held its four Coast Conference opponents to a combined 10 points, including two shut outs.
“I expected a close game,” Gilford added. “At crucial times, we did not execute. Hartnell checked to some effective passes that we did not defense properly.”
Hartnell finished with a 355-209 advantage in total offense. The lone setback by the Panthers came from 11 penalties for 110 yards. The Rams had four penalties, each for five yards.
Omar Kharroub threw for 209 yards in a 13-of-30 effort for the Rams. Danny Maiello came up with six grabs for 95 yards, including two long plays that moved the Rams near the Hartnell goal line twice in the game’s first 35 minutes.
The Panthers did not start well, punting after three plays following defensive end William Lee’s stuff of a Mann running try, which led to a fourth-and-19 situation.
Gavilan was as ineffective in its first series with Kharroub being sacked for a 12-yard loss on the first play from scrimmage.
Hartnell followed with a crisp eight-play march over 75 yards to a touchdown. Correia connected on throws of 21 and 16 yards to lead the Panthers into Rams’ territory. Mann, a freshman tailback from Miami, raced through the left side for 27 yards to the nine. Two plays later, Mann pushed over right guard for the final two yards to the 7-0 edge with 7:13 left in the first quarter.
Gavilan regrouped to go 82 yards on its next series, which wasn’t quite long enough. Unfortunately, the Rams started the series 83 yards from the Hartnell goal line.
After Kharroub fired a deep slant to Maiello that the Hollister alum turned into a 63-yard play the Panthers’ four, the Rams could not hit paydirt in three running plays. Dominic Changco converted a 24-yard field goal to leave the Rams down 7-3 with 1:08 left in the quarter.
The Panthers took a 14-3 lead with 8:26 left in the first half. Hartnell needed five plays to go 77 yards, topped by a Correia 23-yard loft to Anthony Cannon in the back of the end zone.
Gavilan punted with 3:04 left in the half and the hosts promptly went 38 yards in five plays to make it 21-3. Correia’s big play was a 31-yard strike to Brandyn Crosby on third and 19. Mann darted off right tackle for the final three yards with 1:30 to go in the half.
The Rams did fashion a 10-play drive on the second half’s first series. Maiello pulled from a Kharroub pass behind the secondary and was pulled down inside the one-yard stripe. Two running plays lost a total of nine yards and Kharroub’s third-down pass fell incomplete. Changco missed wide right on a 32-yard field goal try.
Gavilan worked inside the Panther 15-yard line 10 minutes into the second half. Kharroub fumbled the ball to Hartnell after escaping a potential sack. The Panthers went 96 yards in 13 plays for the game’s final touchdown – a 22-yard slant to Crosby with 12:37 to go in the game.
Mann finished with 108 yards on 17 carries. Donovan Weatherspoon covered 39 yards on nine carries for the Rams.