Despite a 5-0 start to the 2017 season — the team’s best start since the late ’90s — City College head football coach Dannie Walker says what’s happened up to this point no longer matters.
NorCal Conference play is upon us. These are the games that truly count.
City was given a true test in its first league contest on Oct. 14 at Sierra College. Both teams entered the week in the Top 10 in the latest California Community College Coaches Poll. The Panthers are at No. 2 and the Wolverines were at No. 9 in the Northern California region, with a 3-2 record.
Despite a game marred by penalties and challenging situations for the Panthers, they still came out on top with a 21-20 victory, earning their first NorCal win of the season and remaining unbeaten at 6-0.
“We needed that,” said Walker. “It’s not about X’s and O’s. It’s about who has the best effort and who’s better capable of handling adversity. Our conference play is the toughest in the state. A weak-minded individual would’ve folded. These kids are rising.”
The opposing starting quarterbacks share a brief history on the field. The Panthers are led by Jayden Machado, from Elk Grove High School, and the Wolverines field quarterback Joe Curry, from Folsom High School. Last year, the two faced each other in the Division I Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, fighting for the chance to play for the section championship.
Machado was outplayed by his counterpart last year, as Curry was 22-of-29, with 415 yards and four TDs. Machado was 15-32, with 151 yards and one interception, as Curry’s Bulldogs crushed Machado’s Thundering Herd 41-3, to reach the section final. Machado was named as the All-Metro First-Team quarterback, but Curry was named the overall Offensive Player of the Year.
But Machado would echo Walker’s theme: Leave the past behind you. It’s only what you do next that matters.
“I’ve never gotten to beat (Folsom),” said Machado. “(Curry is) from Folsom. I’ve been training with those guys over the past three or four years. It felt good to be able to beat one of those Folsom guys for once.”
The fourth quarter began with the game locked at 14 apiece. Sierra missed a 43-yard field goal try to give the Panthers the ball at their own 22-yard line. Three immediate big plays gave City its first lead of the game. Machado hooked up with Jordan Moore for a 34-yard pass and Tre Bussey scurried 42 yards down to the Sierra 2. Daniel Wright took the short score to put the Panthers up 21-14 with 10:50 left in the game.
Sierra responded with a 20-yard strike from Curry to Brandon Aiyuk, but the extra point attempt missed left, allowing City to cling to a one-point lead and another mark in the win column.
“We came out kind of slow,” said Bussey, who rushed 18 times for 180 yards. “We do a lot of conditioning so we’re always prepared for the second half. There was big adversity at halftime, but the team came together, and we did it.”
The Panthers had momentum early in the second half, as Machado hit Moore for a 52-yard pass, setting City up at the Wolverines’ 31-yard line. Two plays later, Machado found Carl Marc in the end zone from 17 yards, tying the game at seven.
Sierra responded on its next drive when Ryan Graham took a 30-yard touchdown pass from Curry, reclaiming the lead for the Wolverines at 14-7 with 7:28 left in the third.
Inside the red zone, Machado scrambled 15 yards through defenders down to the 2-yard line, setting up a short score from Bussey, knotting the score at 14-all at the 3:17 mark in the third.
The Panthers’ defense kept City close throughout the game, with timely plays from Dustin Arango, Christian McFarland, Alexander Rowe, Jalen Swanigan, Jalen Smith, Aarmon Euwing and Brandon Baty.
The Panthers went from potentially being up 3-0 to being down 7-0 in a matter of minutes. Elijah Siemering’s 37-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Sierra’s Andre Sandridge and returned by Cheapell Jones-Morris all the way down to the Panther 2-yard line, where Siemering raced to knock him out of bounds.
It seemed the Panthers’ defensive line would make a goal-line stand on the ensuing Wolverines possession. City stuffed three straight Sierra run attempts, leading to a 4th-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line. Curry initially fumbled the 4th-down snap, but the referees ruled that he landed on the ball in the end zone for the Wolverines’ first touchdown.
Sierra cornerback William Brocchini added to his state-leading total with three interceptions off of Machado, giving him nine takeaways on the season.
Machado finished 16-for-30 with 194 yards. Wright carried the ball 16 times for 100 yards and Moore caught seven passes for 122 yards.
City College beat Sierra last season 21-20 in overtime at Hughes Stadium. The Panthers and the Wolverines have split their last 10 head-to-head meetings over the past decade before this year’s meeting. The next game for City will be at Hughes Stadium Oct. 21 against top-ranked American River College.
For more stats and info on SCC football, visit sccpanthers.losrios.edu/sports/fball.