With two losses entering its Nov. 11 regular season finale, the City College football team had slim hopes of earning a berth in the state playoff bracket. But the Panthers made the most of the audition to earn a home bowl game.
City held onto a narrow lead in the closing seconds for a thrilling victory, its eighth win of the season, over the visiting Butte Roadrunners 27-26.
Butte erased a 19-point deficit, capped by a touchdown with three seconds to play in the game. The Roadrunners decided to go for the win on a two-point conversion attempt, but the Panthers’ defense forced an incomplete pass and clung to a one-point win.
“As a defensive player, that’s really what you live for — for the game to come down to you with a couple seconds left,” said City defensive back Jalen Swanigan, who accounted for four tackles and an interception.
Graylon Lindsey rushed for a season-high 135 yards and two touchdowns for the Panthers. It was the second straight week that the freshman running back rushed for over 100 yards.
The regular season finale was a battle for third place in the NorCal Conference. City had not beaten Butte in its past six tries, dating back to 2007.
An exciting contest was otherwise hampered by five total player ejections between the two teams — three for the Panthers and two for the Roadrunners. City head coach Dannie Walker said that most of the disqualifications were “language-based” and that those players’ eligibility to play in a potential bowl game will be at the discretion of whoever reviews the game officials’ report.
“Three ejections in one game is a bit harsh,” said Walker. “Any team that deals with that can lose it, in terms of focusing on what you’re supposed to be doing. But they stayed the course and kept their composure.”
City enjoyed a 19-6 halftime lead, thanks to a stout defensive effort. Dustin Arango and Swanigan had first-half interceptions for the Panthers. Osayi Onaghinor also picked off a pass on a two-point conversion try.
An errant snap on a City punt attempt allowed Butte to start a drive at City’s 19-yard line. But the Panthers’ defense pushed the Roadrunners backward. Terrance March and Aarmon Euwing recorded a big sack before Arango’s interception gave the ball back to the Panthers.
The next possession saw quarterback Jayden Machado connect with Carl Marc from 9 yards out for a 6-0 Panther lead.
Machado hit Roy Sanders from 3 yards out early in the second quarter, extending City’s lead to 13-0. Machado’s 73–yard connection with Jordan Moore set up Lindsey’s 2-yard score, making it 19-0 Panthers with 11 minutes to go in the first half.
Machado went 11-for-19 with 195 yards and an interception. Moore caught five passes for 116 yards, and Euwing added 10 tackles, including three for loss, on defense.
The Panthers wrapped up their regular season with a 3-2 NorCal Conference record, matching their best league mark since 2014. City’s 8-2 overall standing is the team’s best record since going 9-2 in 2000 after a win in the Capital Shrine Bowl. In the Nov. 12 polls, the Panthers are ranked No. 6 in the final Northern California National Division.
The football program recognized 28 sophomores, surrounded by friends and family before game time. For a handful of Panthers, this season marked the first time they have been part of a winning team.
“I’ve never had a winning season, so I felt like this was a great season,” said sophomore linebacker Terrance March, who led City with 11 tackles. “I got to spend it with the people who were really looking out for me. It’s a real brotherhood.”
City will return to Hughes Stadium — better known to the players as “The Shoe” — for a 1 p.m. kickoff on Nov. 18 for the Capital City Bowl against City College of San Francisco. It will be one last chance for the outgoing sophomores to protect The Shoe.
“I’ve had some of my best games in this stadium,” said Swanigan, who played home games at Hughes Stadium when he attended Christian Brothers High School. “It gives you a certain type of vibe that you just love. I don’t know what it is. It just gives you energy.”
For more stats and info on SCC football, visit http://sccpanthers.losrios.edu/sports/fball/index