Rams avoid embarrassment with late rally


The Gavilan Rams escaped a penalty-filled season opener with a
26-23 non-conference victory over host College of Marin Saturday
afternoon by scoring 14 points in the final nine minutes.
KENTFIELD – The Gavilan Rams escaped a penalty-filled season opener with a 26-23 non-conference victory over host College of Marin Saturday afternoon by scoring 14 points in the final nine minutes.

“If we play this way Saturday night against American River, they will clean our clocks,” Gavilan coach John Lango said after surviving the four-hour struggle.

The Rams begin the home portion of the schedule Saturday at 7 p.m. against American River on the Garcia-Elder Sports Complex turf.

After earning only two wins in 10 tries last season, any win would be welcome for the Gavilan gridders. Marin presented a different type of opponent, however, having gone through four years of winless football on the way to 46 consecutive losses.

Marin suited up 48 players, three fewer than the visitors. The Mariners held the lead for half of the contest, putting together 389 yards of total offense, 97 more than the Rams.

“Too many penalties, too many mistakes,” suggested Lango in assessing the uneven effort by the Rams.

“When you take penalties and you’re facing a first and 25 or a second and 20, that limits your play-calling. The penalties put us in situations that cost us possessions and field position.”

Marin took its final lead of the contest with 5:42 in the third quarter when Bryant Smith caught a 17-yard TD pass from Thomas Arguello for a 17-12 lead.

Gavilan came to life in the fourth quarter with a pair of touchdowns.

Doug Stewart, a freshman wideout, made his second touchdown of the afternoon when he turned a short Nick Kalantari pass into a 74-yard scoring play with 8:40 left in regulation.

Steven Norman’s pass to Joe Valdez for the two-point conversion left the Rams up 20-17.

Arthur Pittman, one of the Rams’ freshman stalwarts in the secondary, then cut in front of a Mariner receiver for an interception and covered the 35 yards to paydirt to give Gavilan a 26-17 cushion with 3:45 to play.

Marin closed out the scoring by taking advantage of a Gavilan special teams turnover to set up a one-yard DeShawn Eure catch from Arguello with seven seconds left.

Lango lauded the play of Pittman (two of the three Ram interceptions) and defender VJ Atkins in the decisive second half.

“We moved Atkins from linebacker to defensive end and they couldn’t stop him,” said Lango. “VJ had two sacks and kept pressure on Arguello the rest of the game.”

Marin never trailed in the first half. Mark Anderson broke free for an 83-yard touchdown jaunt with 5:23 left in the first quarter for the 7-0 edge. Two plays into the next series, the Rams responded with a Kalantari 60-yard TD bomb to Victor Sapp. Michael Blewett’s PAT try was blocked with 5:14 to play.

After a scoreless second quarter, the Rams took advantage of a lost Mariner fumble on the first play of the second half. Gavilan gained the lead when Stewart scored off a 23-yard pass from Kalantari with 14:22 left in the third to make it 12-7. The two-point try failed.

The Mariners scored the game’s next 10 points. Jon Wheat’s 25-yard field goal at 11:43 made it 12-10, setting up Smith’s go-ahead score.

Kalantari, the sophomore portion of Gavilan’s two-quarterback offering, finished with 267 yards on a 13-of-24 effort and three touchdowns. Freshman Connor Farotte did not make a completion in limited action.

“Nick looked better than last year,” said Lango. “Connor did some good things, got out of the pocket and ran well.”

Gavilan’s running game was highlighted by 29 yards off 13 carries by Matt Perkins. Stewart keyed the receivers with 119 yards off five catches. Sapp had three catches for 84 yards, Tim Harvey three for 33. Marin’s Arguello was busy with 34 completions in 62 tries for 272 yards.

The penalties depressed both offenses. Gavilan earned 196 yards on 20 flags, Marin 145 yards on 15 penalties.