The City College football team has been known to make some exciting, highlight-worthy plays this season, from 90-yard kickoff returns, to 60-yard touchdown runs, to bone-crushing defensive hits.
What really makes coach Dannie Walker smile are the moments that sometimes go unappreciated: the effort plays.
Sure, wide receiver Jordan Moore reeled in three touchdowns of 32, 8, and 77 yards, respectively, in the second half of the Sept. 30 game against the College of Sequoias. Moore’s seven catches for 185 yards guided the Panthers offensively.
But Walker said the efforts of players like Dustin Arango — who stopped a would-be 75-yard touchdown pass by chasing the receiver more than 30 yards to pull him down at the 3-yard line — underlined the 34-21 victory for the Panthers.
Arango’s chase-down effort inspired City’s defense to hold Sequoias with a goal-line stand early in the fourth quarter, helping the Panthers to their first 5-0 start since 1999.
“That’s a momentum changer,” said linebacker and defensive captain Terrance March. “It gives our defense hope. It lets everybody know that we’ve got another chance to fight.”
Walker said he begins team meetings showing film of these types of plays.
“Those efforts are what we talk about all day long,” he said. “Not the touchdowns or kickoff returns, the effort plays are what’s important to us. It’s a direct representation of character, and it shows that we’re not going to quit.”
Darrell Robinson also chased down the Giants’ punter on a high snap back to the Sequoias 3-yard line, setting up an 8-yard strike from Jayden Machado to Moore, for a 28-14 City lead at 4:24 in the third. After a defensive tussle in a 7-7 first half, the Panthers came out of the locker room looking like a new team.
“Just play like a man,” said Walker of his halftime message. “It doesn’t get any simpler than that. In terms of responsibility, doing your job, and doing your job well with 100 percent effort, leaving everything on the field, the Sac City way.”
The second half was highlighted by Moore’s three touchdown grabs as well as another kickoff return touchdown from Tayvian Cunningham. Opposing teams began taking notice of Cunningham’s explosiveness over the first three weeks. So, City had to come up with a new plan.
After Sequoias scored on a 15-yard quarterback-keeper by Gus Villareal, the Panthers showed some creativity on the ensuing kickoff. The kick went to Jonas McMillan, who began right and reversed it to a left-moving Cunningham. Nick Lauvao threw a huge block to lead Cunningham into open space and into the end zone for his fourth kick-return TD in five games.
“We’ve got to be two steps ahead of teams,” said Walker. “We’re just trying to find ways to get the ball in (Cunningham’s) hands, because when that dude’s got the ball in his hands, it’s a different world.”
Machado had his best statistical night for the Panthers, going 16-for-23 with 323 yards and four touchdowns, three of which went to Moore, and one to Robert Harrison.
Moore has caught seven of Machado’s 13 touchdown passes this season.
“The chemistry (with Moore) really started clicking from day one,” said Machado. “He’s just a pure athlete and we really have each other on a mental basis, where I know when he’s breaking and when the safety is coming. The chemistry is getting better and better every week.”
The Panthers remained undefeated after Week 4 with a 37-34 overtime victory in Santa Rosa. They continue a slow, steady rise in the California Community College Regional State Football polls. Entering Sept. 25, City ranked third, tied with American River College in the Northern California National Division.
The games don’t get any easier from here on out.
City heads into a bye week before beginning NorCal National Division play on Oct. 14 at Sierra College. Hughes Stadium will host state bowl games over the next two years, adding to the Panthers’ motivation to secure a league championship.
Even with the bye week, Walker still expects his squad to remain sharp, focused and willing to put forth those same efforts every day in practice.
“It’s drilled into our heads every day at practice,” said Arango. “The coaches drill it into our heads, and we just abide by that formula.”
For more stats and info on SCC football, visit sccpanthers.losrios.edu/sports/fball.