Rams Dominant in Opening Win


Photo by: Ben Hensley

Rams sophomore wide receiver Chris Brown celebrates with teammates following a 14-yard touchdown completion from sophomore Quarterback Jonah Johnson on Sept. 7, 2019. The Rams defeated Santa Rosa Junior College 35-17 in their season opener.

Story By: Ben Hensley, Sports Editor

The Rams opened their regular season with a dominant win on Saturday, Sept. 7, defeating the Santa Rosa Junior College Bear Cubs 35-17, improving to 1-0 on the season.

Sophomore quarterback Jonah Johnson threw for 137 yards and two touchdowns in the win, extending his streak of passes without an interception to 69. Johnson also rushed for a touchdown in the win.

Sophomore running back Rico Rosario had a day on the ground, picking up 98 yards despite not reaching the end zone. The Rams did pick up three touchdowns on the ground however, coming from Johnson, freshman running backs Tre Maxwell III and Marcus Washington.

“I’m really happy, and we played our entire roster,” Rams’ head coach Tony Caviglia said following the Rams’ victory.

The Rams marched down the field on their opening drive, ending in a one yard touchdown run by Johnson.

With the score 7-0, the Rams defense took a while to figure things out against the Bear Cubs and starting freshman quarterback Jhalen Grayer, who moved the ball well on their opening possession before being stopped in the red zone and settling for a 13 yard field goal, putting the Bear Cubs on the board, trailing 7-3.

“We weren’t quite sure of exactly the speed that they play at, the types of plays that they do and the types of things that they do,” Caviglia said of the team’s first defensive stand in which they allowed the most yards on a single drive all day. “You know, you hate to see that but in the first game that’s what happens.”

A majority of the remainder of the first quarter mirrored that philosophy, with the Rams testing different plays offensively against the Bear Cubs.

The teams traded punts on four consecutive possessions until late in the second quarter when Johnson hooked up with Chad Brown for a 19 yard touchdown completion, extending the Rams’ lead to 14-3 just prior to halftime.

The Bear Cubs got the ball back on their way to a three-and-out just prior to halftime. The Cubs’ ensuing punt play was botched, resulting in the kicker being tackled for a loss of 12, giving the Rams the ball on the oppositions 14 yard line.

Johnson needed just one play to extend the score further, as moments later, freshman wideout Chris Brown elevated above Bear Cubs’ defensive back Taylor Williams. The score was Johnson’s second passing touchdown on the afternoon, extending the Rams’ lead to 21-7 with seconds to go in the first half.

“As a team, we just came up here ready to play,” Johnson said of the team’s performance on the road trip. “We were all just stress free.”

After the second half began with a Bear Cub three-and-out, the Rams pieced together an eight play drive, ending in a four yard touchdown run by Marcus Washington, extending the Rams lead to 28-3.

The Bear Cubs next went on a 19 play drive, seeing a punt negated by a Rams penalty, and both the loss or momentum on a fourth down stop in Rams’ territory, but also the loss of Bear Cubs’ quarterback Jhalen Grayer to an apparent leg injury. Grayer was helped off the field after a two yard scramble. He would not return to the game.

The Rams’ special teams unit played to perfection throughout the game, downing four of five punts inside the 20 yard line, the lone punt landing outside the 20 being caught at the 30 yard line on the Bear Cubs’ final possession of the game.

Special teams made a huge impact midway through the third quarter, when sophomore punter Eli Riofrio’s kick was downed at the three yard line of the Bear Cubs. That punt led to an ensuing three-and-out for the Bear Cubs, followed by a four play, putaway drive by the Rams, culminating in a Maxwell III touchdown, bringing the Rams’ point total to 35.

The Rams’ allowed two late touchdowns in the fourth quarter, both on quarterback runs by Bear Cubs’ replacement quarterback Will Heckman. Heckman ended the day with 86 yards, completing 5 of 11 pass attempts, and two scores on the ground with 46 total rushing yards.

“It’s really good to play a lot of guys and see what a lot of the guys can do,” Caviglia said following the game. “Good first game coming out.”

The Rams ended the game after giving up Heckman’s second touchdown on the day, bringing the score to 35-17 at the final whistle.

After the game, Caviglia continued the praise for his team’s effort and result in their opener.

“We took a five hour bus trip to play this game, and it’s really hard to do that.”

Caviglia and the Rams look to improve on their 1-0 start at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14 at home in Ratcliffe Stadium against the Siskiyous Eagles.