Breaking through; City football back on the rise

City College football team breaks through the SCC banner to start the game against Modesto Junior College at Hughes Stadium on Sept. 16. ©2017 Dianne RoseCity College football team breaks through the SCC banner to start the game against Modesto Junior College at Hughes Stadium on Sept. 16. ©2017 Dianne Rose

Nick Pecoraro
Sports Editor
Npecoraro.express@gmail.com

 

All good things must come to an end, but there’s always next year.

If the results of the 2017 City College football campaign were any indication of what the future holds, the program shows no signs of slowing down.

The Panthers followed a 6-5 mark in 2016 by going 8-3 in 2017. It is the first time City has had consecutive winning seasons since 2006–07. Their eight wins are the most a Panther team has accumulated in  17 years, last matched when City went 9-2 and won the Capital Shrine Bowl in 2000.

“We’re definitely pleased with the progress and development of the program,” said head coach Dannie Walker.

Walker, in his eighth season as head coach, said this year’s team has been one of the best he’s ever fielded during his tenure at City College, and as the outgoing sophomores move on, the tradition of the program is in good hands.

“That’s what it’s about, one class passing it to the next class,” said Walker. “Hopefully this sophomore class can pass it down to these freshmen and better prepare them to continue the culture and the philosophy of the program, and make sure we’re good to go in the right direction.”

THE HOT START

The Panthers began 2017 as a resilient force. The team manufactured a six-game win streak, its longest winning stretch to start a season since the team won its first eight games in 1999. City climbed as high as second in the region before falling in consecutive games to American River College and College of the Siskiyous — both teams that competed for the California State Playoff bracket.

Early on, a major ingredient in the winning recipe was special teams, also known as the Dynamite Crew. Explosive freshman Tayvian Cunningham returned four kicks for touchdowns — with nearly 94 yards per run-back — in the team’s first five games. His four TDs and over 35 yards-per-return were the best in California.

“When that dude has the ball in his hands, it’s a different world,” Walker said of Cunningham after the Sept. 30 win over the College of the Sequoias.

TEAMS WITHIN THE TEAM

This year’s Panther team came with major personality. There was an identity for nearly every position group.

Along with the special teams Dynamite Crew, there was the Sniper Gang in the secondary of the defense. Whether intercepting and breaking up passes, or putting big hits on opposing receivers, the Sniper Gang always had eyes on the target.

Founding members Christian McFarland, Jalen Swanigan, Chris Le, Dustin Arango and Jalen Smith, helped take away 16 passes this season. Whenever the defensive backs came up with an interception, they raced to the sideline and got on the ground with their imaginary sniper rifle pose.

Offensively, the receiving core, known as the Grip Squad, gave quarterback Jayden Machado a number of toys to play with. Sophomore Jordan Moore, who tallied 1,012 yards and nine TDs through the air, was one of just five receivers in California to surpass 1,000 yards. Carl Marc and tight end Roy Sanders added nine more scores between the two of them.

Protecting Machado up front were the Hogs,  the aptly nicknamed offensive line that featured no one under 6-foot-2 and 275 pounds, led by two-time All-League selection Brysen Klinefelter and left tackle Garren Harris. Jon Pochop, Austin Alley, Nick Martinez and Marcus Perez all contributed in the trenches and allowed four different City running backs to have 100-yard rushing games.

The defensive front of TJ Tiatia, Alexander Rowe, Adam Mier, TJ Poloai, Rodney Spidell, Terrance March, Aarmon Euwing and Peyton Bailey didn’t need a nickname to prove that they were bulldogs on the field. The unit helped account for a conference-best four defensive touchdowns. Euwing led the Panthers in sacks and tackles for loss, and March was a top 10 tackler in the state.

“It means everything for me to be a part of Sac City,” said Bailey, a bull on both defense and special teams, blocking two punts in critical situations. “I don’t think I would be as good as I am now. To be along for this journey, it’s all I could ask for.”

ALL-LEAGUE TEAM

City finished the season in third place in the NorCal Conference with a 3-2 record and ranked 6th overall in the final Northern California regular season polls. The team produced nine All-Conference selections.

March and Klinefelter were repeat selections. McFarland, Euwing and Poloai were defensive picks while Harris anchored the offensive line. Cunningham, Moore and running back Tre Bussey, whose 6.4 yards per carry were 8th best in Northern California, led the skill players.

“This is probably the most complete team I’ve been on,” said Moore.

WHAT’S NEXT?

If City is able to return this year’s freshmen as sophomores, it will have plenty of leadership and ability to make another run at the postseason. All-League selections Bussey, Harris, Cunningham and Euwing and their starting quarterback, Machado, are only freshmen.

Machado’s 238 passing yards per game and 23 touchdowns were the eighth best in the state. Running back Graylon Lindsey could provide a formidable backfield tandem alongside Bussey. Isaiah Montanez, who scored four touchdowns in five games before being sidelined with injuries, could also return to the rotation next year.

“We gel perfectly,” said Machado. “We became a family. I love every single guy on this team.”

What the team accomplished on the field this season is nothing compared to the culture and tradition the program has worked to reestablish.

“Sac City hasn’t really been on the map in a long time,” said defensive back Jalen Swanigan. “I feel like now people take us a lot more serious. We lost a couple games that we didn’t want to lose, but at the end of the day, I think the message was sent that Sac City’s back.”

For more stats and info on SCC football, visit http://sccpanthers.losrios.edu/sports/fball/index