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October 1, 2023

Rams hit road for Shrine upset

Gavilan gridmen face undefeated Sierra on Saturday at Sac City
GILROY – The Gavilan Rams will go bowling for the first time in six years Saturday by taking on unbeaten Sierra College Wolverines at 12 noon on the Hughes Stadium turf at Sacramento City College in the Capital Shrine Bowl.

Gavilan College has an 8-2 bowl record, including a current four-game winning streak. The Rams outlasted Shasta College 20-13 in the 1997 Holiday Inn Bowl.

The Rams football team produced a Coast Conference co-championship and a 5-5 mark under fourth-year head coach John Lango. Playing in a bowl game became the season-long goal of the Rams, although a second chance against the 10-0 Wolverines might not have been on that same wish list.

Gavilan finished the season ranked 17th among the Northern California teams. Sierra, after running the table in the Bay Valley Conference, finished third in Northern Cailifornia, fifth overall as one of only five unbeaten teams in the state.

Sierra powered past the Rams 65-0 on the winners’ turf on Sept. 20. The Wolverines built a 562-24 stranglehold on total offense. Sierra quarterback J.P. Greco threw four touchdown passes at Gavilan on the way to a 32-TD season. Kevin Haley, the Bay Valley’s leading rusher with 1201 yards and 22 touchdowns, eased to 139 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries against Gavilan.

“Sierra may have gotten better, but I know this – we’re a different football team,” Lango said of the changes made in the past two months.

“We have some different starters, we have some new schemes,” added Lango of the improvements he has noticed since the third game of the season.

Viewing the game films for the first Sierra game reminded the coach of the basic rule of football that Gavilan too often failed to follow.

“We didn’t tackle,” noted Lango. “There must have been 20 tackles behind the line of scrimmage we missed in the first half. Instead of second and four, we should have been facing a second and 12.”

Brian Hernandez, the sophomore linebacker who intercepted one Greco pass in September, seconded that opinion.

“Our defense is fired up. We know we didn’t have a good game, but that was early in the season and we’re a lot better team. We did a terrible job of tackling last game. We have to know our keys and tackle a lot better.”

Hernandez, a co-captain this season, added that Sierra will use the same game plan this weekend that was so successful in September.

“They run a few plays and come right at you,” said Hernandez, the Live Oak High product. “Their front line is quick. Sierra is also not afraid to throw the ball downfield. They mix it up well.”

“Sierra’s going to score their points,” said Lango of the high-powered Wolverines. Sierra paced the Bay Valley Conference with an average of 517 yards in total offense. “We’ll have to match points with them.”

El Ray Henry, the Coast Conference rushing champion and Offensive Player of the Year, led the conference with 1067 rushing yards and 86 points.

“I know Sierra is going to focus on our running game,” said Lango.

“(Henry’s) a force to be reckoned with,” said Sierra coach Jeff Tisdel. “Gavilan won a conference championship, they finished strong, and I respect them for that. I expect a dogfight Saturday. I’m very excited to play in the Shrine Bowl.”

Sierra has played in the past two Capital Shrine games, defeating Laney 13-7 in 2002, losing to Delta 32-13 in 2001.

Greco was named the Bay Valley offensive MVP and freshman middle linebacker Chad Mowry garnered defensive MVP honors.

Quarterback Patrick Ames was limited to three pass completions for 17 yards by Sierra. Ted Mason, the conference leader in pass receiving yardage with 933, accounted for all three catches at Sierra.

“There’s an over-all excitement to being in this game,” said Lango. “Since that first game, a lot of good things have happened. We won a Coast Conference championship and El Ray was named the top offensive player. We’ve had three weeks of practice and the staff has been able to plan for this bowl game. This has to be our best game.”

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