Gavilan Football: Hartnell explodes in third to top Rams


GILROY – For 20 minutes, Gavilan had Hartnell on the ropes. The Rams grabbed a 27-21 lead over the top football team in the Coast Conference, only to give up 49 unanswered points to the Panthers Saturday afternoon at Garcia-Elder Sports Complex.
Jakari Johnson caught a touchdown pass from Brandon Pickens in the closing moments, leaving the Rams on the short end of a 70-35 score. Gavilan, 1-3 in conference play and 3-6 overall, completes the season Saturday night in Aptos against Cabrillo.
Gavilan ended the home portion of its schedule with a 3-2 mark. The school honored the dozen sophomores on the team before the game. Johnson, the most heralded of the second-year men, responded with the touchdown catch, a touchdown run and a touchdown pass.
“Jakari again showed that he’s a leader on and off the field, with his actions and his words,” said third-year Gavilan coach Spencer Gilford. “He’s a captain for a reason.”
Gavilan nearly matched the Panthers on first downs (25-24 Hartnell) and total offense (537-491 Hartnell). The turnover bug turned out to be a deciding factor.
“The first half, we came out and moved the ball well,” said Gilford. “We had some stops defensively against a very good team. We gave up way too many points defensively in the first half. The key to the game was that we lost the turnover battle.”
The Rams fumbled the ball away to Hartnell four times, with two turnovers leading to returns for touchdowns.
Gavilan held the lead twice in the first half. After Hartnell opened the scoring with star halfback DeAndre Mann zipping for a 15-yard touchdown, the Rams took a 14-7 lead on an 11-yard touchdown pitch from Nate Ellis to Jesse Barker, then a two-yard TD toss from Ellis to Trevin Kelly.
The Panthers rallied for two scores before the end of the quarter to own a 21-14 lead. Quarterback Curt Ceralde found Antoine Goodson behind the Ram secondary for a 40-yard scoring play, then turned to Mann for a four-yard jaunt off right tackle.
Gavilan had set up its second touchdown with a reverse pass from Johnson to Mike Deans-Merson for a 50-yard gain. The duo paired up for a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter to make it 21-21. Ellis spun a lateral to Johnson, who fired a strike to an unmarked Deans-Merson for the 30-yard touchdown.
“One of our trick plays,” said Deans-Merson of the surprise score. “The receiver kept going in motion all game. I acted like I’m blocking, then release upfield. They think it’s a run all the way.”
Freshman linebacker Dillon Babb returned an interception of a Ceralde pass 54 yards to the Haetnell 11. Johnson’s slice off right guard with 10:12 left in the half left the home team up 27-21. The visitors then produced the game’s next seven touchdowns.
After Hartnell scored two touchdowns in the final nine minutes of the first half for a 35-27 lead, the Panthers earned two touchdowns within the first two minutes of the second half.
A fumble on a completed Gavilan pass on the first play of the third quarter resulted in a 39-yard return for a touchdown by Rodrigo DeLaCruz. After an Ellis fumble at Hartnell’s 24, Mann dashed off consecutive 38-yard runs for a 49-27 lead.
Hartnell added three more touchdowns in the quarter, one Mann run, one Ceralde pass and a 37-yard fumble return by Matt Snead.
Ellis, held out of the game after three quarters with an injury, covered 179 yards on 17 of 23 passing. Pickens, in relief, amassed 134 yards on 10 of 16 tries. Johnson finished with 11 catches along with his 2 for 2 passing for 80 yards. Mann went for 177 yards on the ground in 17 carries. Ceralde earned 292 yards through the air on a 15 for 22 showing.