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Gavilan College gridmen falter 40-20 to Cabrillo in finale
APTOS – The season for the Gavilan College football team came to an end Saturday night when the Cabrillo Seahawks fashioned a 40-20 victory at Carl Conelly Stadium.

Prospects for a .500 record, a possible co-Coast Conference championship and a post-season bowl berth for the Rams were erased when the Seahawks combined 411 total yards with two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. The Rams were able to cover 327 yards and had a 22-19 edge in first downs but could not come up with answers for the Seahawk offensive resurgence and the touchdowns off poor passes.

“We played hard the whole game,” said third-year coach John Lango. “They never gave up. I’m proud of the kids, proud of the season.”

Gavilan brought a 2-1 conference record into the season-ending showdown. By the 7 p.m. kick-off, the Rams were aware that Hartnell had moved to 3-0 atop the conference with a 16-12 afternoon edging of Monterey Peninsula College.

Some clues in the first four minutes of play showed that Cabrillo could escape with a win, a 2-1 conference record and an outside chance at a co-title. The Seahawks fumbled on both the opening kick-off return and on a punt return two series later. Both miscues were minimized when Cabrillo recovered the fumbles rather than give Gavilan excellent field position inside the Seahawk 25.

Cabrillo needed three plays to cover 74 yards to the game’s first score. Quarterback Nick Noce found wide-out Ryan Dugan behind the Ram secondary for a 52-yard gain to the Gavilan 13. On the next play, Noce spotted Dugan between two defenders in the left corner of the endzone for the touchdown toss and a 7-0 lead with 10:23 to play in the opening quarter.

Gavilan did recover one of the five Cabrillo fumbles, turning a poor exchange in the backfield by Noce into a turnover that William Vaana recovered at the Ram 44. Running back Danny Gallo anchored a nine-play drive to a tying touchdown with five rushes, including the last four worth 13 yards. The sophomore out of Gilroy High darted 10 yards to the one, then leaned over for the final yard with 1:42 to play in the quarter.

Gallo, hampered much of the season with ankle injuries, sparked the Ram ground game with 101 yards on 24 carries.

The Seahawks regained the lead with touchdowns on their next two possessions. Cabrillo needed 10 plays to march 83 yards for a 14-7 lead with 13:14 left in the half. Noce found running back Efrain Carbajal for a 20-yard gain on a fourth-and-three call from the Ram 24. Halfback Carlos Flores turned an option pitch into a one-yard TD run around the left flank.

Cabrillo went 50 yards in three plays for a 21-7 lead with 10:10 to play in the half. Noce’s 39-yard pass to the endzone came down in the hands of both wide-out Joel Hernandez and safety Luis DaLuz, Hernandez credited with the TD catch.

Gavilan fought back with a 65-yard touchdown drive that included a 3-for-4 passing effort by quarterback Ajene Palmer. The sophomore sped through the Seahawk defense for 22 yards on a draw play, then pitched a two-yard scoring pass to Harley May with 4:44 to play in the half. The PAT try failed, leaving Cabrillo up 21-13.

Gavilan repelled a Cabrillo drive in Ram territory when defensive end Paul Bianchi tackled running back Nick Pollard for a six-yard loss on a fourth-down call. The Rams took over with 1:48 to play and went looking for a tying touchdown.

On the first play of the series, Palmer escaped the rush and motored through the secondary before he was pushed out of bounds along the Gvailan sideline at midfield. Palmer’s momentum sent him into the bench, then a pipe near the grandstand. The pipe broke, sending water streaming 40 feet into the air and into the stands. When the 12-minute delay for plumbing repairs ended, Palmer was pulled for the remainder of the quarter, replaced by Russell Schafer.

After two incompletions, Schafer’s third-down attempt, a deep sideline throw, was picked off by Tyler Jones in stride, resulting in a 40-yard touchdown return with 1:16 left in the half. Moses Aguilar blocked Byron Hetherton’s PAT kick, leaving the Hawks up 27-13 at the break.

Cabrillo used another Jones touchdown return, this time for 26 yards, of a Palmer pass with 10 minutes left in the third quarter for a 34-13 lead. The Seahawks scored on the next possession, Noce drilling a 37-yard TD pass to Dugan with 3:14 to go in the third quarter for a 40-13 edge.

The Rams responded with seven points on a 59-yard drive. Palmer converted a third-down play with a 32-yard pass to Sam Tolutau. Palmer hit Brandon Almaguer with a two-yard slant pass for the team’s final touchdown of the campaign, Jorge Garcia drilling the point-after.

“Alot of freshmen that had to step up and play because of recent injuries did just that,” Cabrillo coach Steve Cox said of the keys to the victory. “Our defense, for the first time in a while, was able to put some pressure on them, to force some passes that were errant, and we were able to pick them off and go all the way with them.”

Noce, completing his first seven passes, finished with 265 yards in a 17-for-25 night. Palmer accounted for 146 yards in a 15-for-26 effort, then rushing for 66 yards on a dozen tries.

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